The Effect of Parental Involvement Laws on Youth Suicide

Joseph Sabia 1, Daniel Rees2
1American University, USA, 2University of Colorado Denver, USA

Using state-level data on suicides from the period 1987 through 2003, we find that the adoption of a law requiring a parent’s notification or consent before a minor can obtain an abortion is associated with a 15 to 25 percent reduction in suicides committed by 15- through 17-year-old females. In contrast, the adoption of a parental involvement law is not associated with a reduction in the number of suicides committed by older females or by males belonging to the same age group. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that parental involvement laws increase the expected cost of having unprotected sex, and, as a consequence, serve to protect young females from depression and what have been termed “stressful life events” such as conflict with a parent or an abortion. Using microdata drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we find that sexually active females are at increased risk of having thoughts of suicide and of attempting suicide, but there is little evidence of a similar relationship for male adolescents.

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