Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 45, Issue 8, pp 1527–1545 | Cite as

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Suicide Attempts: The Mediating Influence of Personality Development and Problem Behaviors

  • Nicholas M. Perez
  • Wesley G. Jennings
  • Alex R. Piquero
  • Michael T. Baglivio
Empirical Research


Adverse childhood experiences, comprised of forms of maltreatment and certain dysfunctional household environments, can affect the development of a child in a variety of different ways. This multitude of developmental changes may subsequently produce compounding harmful effects on the child’s life and increase acutely maladaptive outcomes, including adolescent suicidal behavior. This study uses data collected from 2007 to 2012 for 64,329 Florida Department of Juvenile Justice youth (21.67 % female, 42.88 % African American, and 15.37 % Hispanic) to examine the direct and indirect effects of adverse childhood experiences on suicide attempts. Using a generalized structural equation model, the effects of adverse childhood experience scores are estimated on suicidal behavior through pathways of certain aspects of a child’s personality development (aggression and impulsivity), as well as adolescent problem behaviors (school difficulties and substance abuse). The results show that a large proportion of the relationship between childhood adversity and suicide is mediated by the aforementioned individual characteristics, specifically through the youth’s maladaptive personality development. These results suggest that, if identified early enough, the developmental issues for these youth could potentially be addressed in order to thwart potential suicidal behavior.


Juveniles Suicide ACE assessment Maltreatment Aggression Impulsivity Substance abuse School difficulties 



We wish to acknowledge and thank Director Mark Greenwald and Nathan Epps from the Office of Research and Data Integrity at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice for allowing access to the sensitive data provided for this study. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice or the members of the FDJJ Office of Research and Data Integrity.

Author contributions

Nicholas Perez conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination and drafted the manuscript; Wesley Jennings participated in the design of the study and aided with the interpretation of the data; Alex R. Piquero aided with the interpretations of the data and reviewed the manuscript; Michael Baglivio assisted with data collection, aided with the design of the study, and aided with the interpretations of the data. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Conflicts of interest

The authors report no conflict of interests.

Ethical Approval

The study detailed in this manuscript was approved by both the University of South Florida’s IRB (CR1_Pro00015635) and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s (FDJJ) IRB.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was waived/did not apply as the data relied on in this study represented a secondary analysis of de-identified, pre-existing agency data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas M. Perez
    • 1
  • Wesley G. Jennings
    • 2
    • 3
  • Alex R. Piquero
    • 4
  • Michael T. Baglivio
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Emergency Management, College of Health and Human ServicesCalifornia State UniversityLong BeachUSA
  2. 2.Deptartment of CriminologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  3. 3.Deptartment of Mental Health Law and Policy, Faculty Affiliate, Florida Mental Health Institute, College of Behavioral and Community SciencesUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  4. 4.Program in CriminologyEPPS University of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA
  5. 5.G4S Youth Services, LLCTampaUSA

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