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Member Research and Reports

Nevada, Reno: Teen Sexual Identity, Childhood Trauma Linked to Suicidal Behavior

Dr. Kristen Clements-Nolle is a social and behavioral epidemiologist at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Community Health Sciences. Her research focuses on psychosocial determinants of sexual health, mental health, and substance use outcomes in underserved populations.

[Photo: Dr. Kristen Clements-Nolle]

In her most recent publication in the Journal of Adolescent Health and featured in Reuters, Dr. Clements-Nolle investigated how both LGBQ sexual identity and traumatic experiences in childhood are linked to a heightened risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

To examine the relationships among teen sexual identity, childhood trauma and suicide risk, Dr. Clements-Nolle and colleagues enrolled approximately 5,000 students from 97 high schools in Nevada to fill out questionnaires and answer questions about their sexual identity and exposure to adverse childhood experiences.

The LGB and questioning students were more likely to be exposed to adverse childhood events (ACEs). Sexual identity was also linked to risk of suicidal thinking. Compared with heterosexual students with no ACEs, LGB and questioning students overall were three times more likely to report suicidal thoughts.

LGB and questioning students who reported one ACE were almost 7 times more likely to think about suicide compared to heterosexual students with one ACE. With three or more ACEs, LGB and questioning students were 14 times more likely to think about suicide compared to heterosexual counterparts.

“Studies have shown that family acceptance and parental caring may reduce suicidal behaviors among LGB adolescents and young adults. Future research should evaluate whether interventions that support families with sexual minority youth and promote acceptance of adolescent sexual identity can also impact childhood victimization and household dysfunction,” said Dr. Clements-Nolle.

More information on the Reuters feature

Full published article