Interpersonal Trauma and Suicide Attempts in Low-Income Depressed Mothers in Home Visiting




Robert T. Ammerman, Francesca A. Scheiber, James L. Peugh, Erica Pearl Messer, Judith B. Van Ginkel, and Frank W. Putnam

Brief Type

Journal Publication


  • Healthy Families America (HFA)
  • Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP)


Background: Risk of suicide is a major concern for depressed mothers in the perinatal period. The strongest predictor of completing suicide is having made a previous attempt. Little is known about the clinical features of low-income, depressed mothers who have attempted suicide in contrast to those who have not. Objective: This study examined clinical and psychosocial features of 170 low-income, young, depressed mothers with and without previous suicide attempts who were enrolled in an early childhood home visiting program. Method: Mothers were identified via screening at three months postpartum and diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) using a semi-structured interview. Psychiatric history and presentation, child maltreatment history, intimate partner violence, and social functioning were measured. Results: 31.8% of mothers had previous suicide attempts. Mean age of first attempt was 14.38 years (SD=2.55) and the median number of lifetime attempts was 2. In contrast to no attempts, those who had attempted suicide had more MDD symptoms, earlier age of first MDD episode, and more episodes. A previous attempt was associated with greater childhood trauma, more current MDD symptoms and PTSD diagnosis. No differences were found on intimate partner violence. Mothers who made an attempt reported lower levels of tangible social support and smaller social networks. Conclusions: History of suicide attempts is associated with childhood trauma history and later psychosocial impairments in low income, depressed mothers in home visiting. Implications for addressing the needs of depressed mothers with suicide attempt histories in the context of early childhood programs are discussed. (author abstract)

Data Collection Methods

  • Standardized assessment tools



For More Information

Ammerman, R. T., Schieber, F. A., Peugh, J. L., Messer, E. P., Van Ginkel, J. B., & Putnam, F. W. (2019). Interpersonal trauma and suicide attempts in low-income depressed mothers in home visiting. Child Abuse & Neglect, 97, 1-9. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2019.104126
Author Contact Information:
Robert T. Ammerman


  • Participant Characteristics
  • Participant, Family, and Program Outcomes