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The Protective Effect Of Children

The presence of children appears to have a protective effect with regard to suicide. In a study of a large sample of women in Norway, Georg Hoyer and Eiliv Lund (1993) obtained a sample of almost one million single and married women in Norway in 1970 and identified which of them had completed suicide by 1985. They found that unmarried women had a higher suicide rate than married women without children for those aged twenty-five to sixty-four, but not for those over the age of sixty-four. Thus, marriage appeared to reduce the suicide rate in women.

Hoyer and Lund also found that married women with children had lower suicide rates than married women with no children for all age groups. Thus, the presence of children further reduces the risk of suicide in women above and beyond the protective impact of marriage per se. Furthermore, the more children, the lower the suicide rate of the married women.

This study is the best study on the topic reported hitherto, but it confirms the results of earlier studies on smaller samples and without such detailed analyses. For example, in Portugal women with children were found to have a lower suicide rate than childless women, and those with more than five children had the lowest suicide rate (de Castro and Martins 1987).

There is also some evidence that the presence of children reduces the severity of suicidality in suicidal women, for example, making attempted suicide relatively less common and suicidal ideation relatively more common.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Social IssuesSuicide - The Epidemiology Of Suicide, Theories Of Suicide, Marital Status And The Family, The Protective Effect Of Children