Murder of Family, Friends Takes Highest Toll on Black Teens

TUESDAY, Nov. 13, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Teens who lose a family member or friend to murder have an increased risk of suicide, and black teens are most likely to face this kind of heartbreak, a new study finds.

University of Pittsburgh researchers analyzed the results of a 2014 survey of just over 1,600 teens, aged 14 to 19, in Allegheny County and found that 13 percent said a friend or family member had been murdered.

However, the rate was much higher among black teens, the findings showed. They accounted for just 15 percent of the survey participants, but 46 percent said a family member or friend had been murdered.

Teens who lost a family member or friend to murder had a doubled risk of thinking about suicide. Of teens who thought about suicide, teens who lost a family member or friend to murder were nearly three times more likely to attempt suicide.

"Traumatic loss is one of the greatest barriers for youth to thrive," said study author Patricia Murungi Bamwine, a postdoctoral scholar at Pitt's School of Medicine and UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

"Not only are young people who live in oppressed neighborhoods exposed to disproportionate rates of violence, but they also must wrestle with questions related to death, life, hope and healing," she added in a university news release.

"Our analysis is a call to action for both practitioners and researchers to engage in work related to homicide survivorship," Bamwine said.

"This work highlights that violence prevention and youth development cannot solely focus on reducing homicide. We also must focus on the ripple effects of traumatic loss on not only young people, but communities as a whole," she concluded.

The study was to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, in San Diego. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

Child Trends has more on children's exposure to violence (https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/childrens-exposure-to-violence ).

SOURCE: University of Pittsburgh, news release, Nov. 13, 2018