Study: The More Kids, the Lower Moms’ Suicide Risk

Posted By on April 6, 2010

Children are a blessing in so many ways. They bring smiles, laughter, and hope. They cause us to create a home life, traditions, comfort food. Because of children we are inspired to be better people ourselves. Children need mothers, and we intrinsically know that and curb the self-serving nature that is inherent in us. Children bring us closer to our parents and grandparents. They entwine us to the community of other parents.  Children are the heritage that we leave behind. Of course it lowers the suicide risk.

Supporting the theory that parenthood offers a buffer against suicidal behavior, a new study finds that the more children a woman has, the lower her suicide risk.

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About The Author

Kim Brenneman is the wife to Matt and mother to nine farm schooled children. She gave up on calling it homeschooling when she realized that most of the education that really matters happened naturally because of the farm. Their lives are centered around the seasons and weather directed by God. As a family they are in the process of starting a micro dairy and making cheese along with the conventional crops of corn, beans, and beef cattle. Kim blogs about home management and other topics at Large Family Logistics.


8 Responses to “Study: The More Kids, the Lower Moms’ Suicide Risk”

  1. Victoria says:

    I’m not sure that it’s entirely true that having more children leaves you less susceptible to suicidal thoughts; I think it’s more likely that women who don’t have suicidal thoughts tend to have more children.

  2. Victoria, this is actually something the researchers mentioned — that it’s possible less suicidal women just have more children. However, when they went back through all the variables, there was a strong correlation between the positives of having children and the lower suicide rate. In more general studies of suicide, researchers have often noted links between loneliness and a higher suicide rate, so it would make sense that women with more children would have a lower suicide rate on that score. Positive, healthy family connections mean less depression and more long-term satisfaction with one’s life overall. See for a study on the loneliness-suicide connection, for example.

  3. madgebaby says:

    I’m not sure that I really think this study says anything at all about the effect of large families on preventing suicide. People who choose to have large families are probably more euthymic generally, and they may have religious prohibitions against suicide that they hold to strongly (ie the same reasons they have large families keep them from killing themselves when depressed or stressed).

  4. If you’ll read through the study again, I think you’ll see this is exactly what they are saying. They’ve factored out other causes that don’t seem to contribute to the effect. And the study wasn’t done in a culture with religious prohibitions against suicide (Taiwan). “Although the current study included only Taiwanese women, Yang said the findings are likely relevant to other countries as well. Studies done in Norway, Denmark and Finland have found a similar relationship between a woman’s number of children and her risk of suicide.” Scandanavian countries are not religious, either; they are actually highly secular. I tend to believe there would be a lower suicide rate among religious people myself, but that’s not what this study demonstrated. Perhaps future studies will cover this angle.

  5. Victoria says:

    I suppose that makes sense. My friend’s mother became panicky and depressed during peri-menopause, so her children looked after her during her trying time (they were all homeschooled, so they were home!). If she’d just had one or two children and they were off doing ‘their own thing’, no one would have been there, around the clock, ensuring that she was doing ok. She, by the way, saw a naturopathic physician and was able to balance her hormones and has been doing fine for many years now.

    I suppose I was thinking mostly about my own experience with post partum depression. I had an infant at the time and the idea that I would have been pregnant with another child or maybe that I might have had other children to care for at the time was what drove my comment. If I had OLDER children who could have been helpful I agree that would have been wonderful—but because I had such a hard time with my first, I have strung out the time between children and now wonder if I should have anymore at all. That’s definitely what I was trying to get across in my comment.

  6. Victoria says:

    Of course, my experience with PPD would have been better if I’d seen a doctor who actually knew what it was and had been able to get effective help sooner! The first doctor I saw told me to call her if I wanted to kill the baby since she didn’t want me to ‘turn out like Andrea Yates’. For the record, that’s NOT what you say to a new mother suffering from PPD!

  7. Thank you for your honesty, Victoria. A lot of women now suffer from PPD, and I think the key missing ingredient is support. In the past, women had a vast support network of parents, grandparents, and older women (including midwives) who came alongside them and assisted them through both pregnancy and delivery…but then went beyond that to help the young mother ease into caring for that child and dealing with getting back into shape, eating wisely, etc. Today, that is a rarity unless you live in an Amish community or happen to have a very good list of friends and family members who live nearby and want to help. We no longer have this concept of the “lying in” period that women could enjoy after the birth of a baby (a concept which actually still exists in some Eastern countries, where a new mother is treated like a Queen Bee for two to six months!). Today, women are basically booted out of the hospital, sent home with a needy infant, and told to hurry up and get back in shape and back to work. The idea that post-partum recovery is serious work is laughed off or just ignored. I have been blessed to have the help of my mother and my mother-in-law after the births of all my children, and I have also had young women come into the home to care for chores and meals when I was on bed rest. Without this support, I can easily imagine I would have dealt with serious depression. Bringing new life into the world is hard work, and we are not meant to handle these things alone.

    We have also lost a lot of knowledge about the effects of diet on hormonal health. So much can be done to address PPD and other hormonal issues by improving diet. I had a thyroid issue two years ago but was able to find information on nutritional remedies. I now have no thyroid problems. But this information wasn’t easy to find — I discovered it by networking with another mom who had been through the same thing. We need each other. It’s so vitally important to build up a support network. If you have no one in your family, cultivate the older women at church or even in your neighborhood. And definitely be proactive about investigating PPD like your friend did with the peri-menopausal issue. Good for her!

  8. Victoria says:

    I’d have to agree that the lack of support is a large component of PPD. It’s actually a REALLY big part of it!

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