Parental Involvement Laws, Sexual Activity, and Youth Suicide

Joseph J. Sabia, American University
Daniel I. Rees, University of Colorado at Denver

Using state-level data on suicides from the period 1987 through 2003, we find that the adoption of a parental involvement law is associated with a 15 to 25 percent reduction in suicides committed by females between the ages 15 and 17. 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 Add Health, we find that sexually active females are at increased risk of attempting suicide, but little evidence of a similar relationship for male adolescents.

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Presented in Session 153: Public Policy and Child Outcomes