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"Adolescent Suicide: A Call for Parental Liability"

This is a paper written by a law student, Vanessa Gardianos, then at St Johns University, in the USA. She studied the case of Daniel Scruggs, a 12 year old who hanged himself ih his closet. After a detailed review she made these conclusions:

- Parental emotional neglect is a contributing factor in teenage suicide, and needs to be redressed by either family or criminal law.

- Suits should be brought against parents who emotionally neglect their offspring and courts should not shy away from this type of litigation.

She states two reasons for this:

The first is that suicide is an emotional act and parents have a direct effect on the emotional well-being of their children.

The seconod draws a parallel to schools. Schools have long been held liable for student suicide. If schools can be held to a legal standard,then parents should be held to an even higher standard of responsibility.

Gardianos also believes that

..parents who fail to take action to help their children, those who emotionally neglect their children, need to be held liable for the attempted suicide or suicide of their child. The purpose of such liability is to alert parents to the possibility of liability and ignite an era of proactive parenting.

Copy of Introduction

Selected Quotes

More Detailed Notes & Quotes

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Selected Quotes


Linking Parental Relations and Suicidal Behavior in Adolescents

Here are some notes from this section of the paper


While legislators and courts have declined to hold parents liable for emotional neglect and adolescent suicides, scientific research and empirical evidence demonstrate a direct connection between the parent-child relationship and suicide.

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“It is possible that the parental-adolescent relationship is related to the adolescent’s emotional distress and that emotional distress, in turn, is predictive of later suicidality.”

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Poor parental relationships have been associated with suicidal behavior in adolescents.

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Decreased parental nurturance and increased parental rejection were correlated with increased suicidal ideation and suicide attempts by early adolescents.

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Clinical reports have demonstrated that suicidal teenage patients displayed less warmth within their families than adolescents in comparative families.

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The concept of warm interaction between parent and child exists where the parent uses “positive communication, offers support and affection, demonstrates a close relationship high in relationship quality, and demonstrates interest and provides quality time in the adolescent’s life.”

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The factors that are encompassed in the notion of “warmth” are vital interactions, and the onus falls on the parents to fulfill them.

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Parental warmth acts as a strong shield for adolescents in protecting them from attempting suicide or developing suicidal ideation.

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More specifically, the behavior and interactions between mothers and their children have been proven to have a stronger direct effect on adolescent suicidality than those between fathers and children.

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Parental warmth within a parent-child relationship has a strong positive impact in protecting against child psychopathology, including emotional distress and suicidality.

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In addition to the lack or absence of warm parent-child relationships, negative or hostile parenting characteristics are also related to teenaged suicidality.

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The notion of suicidality is related to “hostile, angry, neglectful, and rejecting parental behaviors directed toward the child.

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It is important to improve the parent-child relationship as a means to prevent “health risk behaviors in youths.”

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Family connectedness is significant and inversely related to emotional distress and suicidality

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(All the above quotes can be found here Linking Parental Relations and Suicidal Behavior in Adolescents)

Here are the first 16 pages of her paper "Adolescent Suicide: A Call for Parental Liability"

The rest of the paper can be found from a links on that page.

While it never became a national scandal like this, I was sexually abused by a male professor at Indiana University in the 70's. The university did nothing about it when I contacted them. Please read my story by searching Maurice Garnier sexual abuse. Thank you. Steve Hein

Introducton

What is worse?: Discovering that your 12-year-old son took his own life or having it take almost a full day before realizing he had done so? Both of these disturbing fates met Judith Scruggs when, on January 2, 2002, she discovered that her 12-year-old son, Daniel, had committed suicide by hanging himself in his closet with a necktie. Judith made the grisly discovery more than twelve hours after Daniel had died.

In 2003,Connecticut prosecuted Judith Scruggs on a risk of injury theory based on the fact she neglected to take any parental action when her son failed to shower or to attend school, and regularly soiled himself in order to get senthome from school.

The high court in Connecticut overturned the conviction against Scruggs, finding the state statute to be unconstitutionally vague.

Despite this reversal, the case is still remarkable, because it represents the first time a parent has been held legally responsible for a child’s suicide.

   

 

 

 

More Detailed Notes & Quotes

Judith Scruggs was not concerned when she did not see Daniel asleep in bed because of his past behavior of sleeping in his sister’s room or in his closet

Scruggs discovered Daniel’s body during a stop at home between her two jobs, in a closet where his body had “been hanging . . . all day”

The prosecution of Judith Scruggs ignited a national debate about the responsibility of parents for their children’s suicides It received both criticism and support

It was one of the first times a parent has been charged in connection with a child’s suicide.

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Parental failure directly affects the emotional stability and growth ofchildren.

The paper also reviews cases where parents successfully brought actions against school districts for failure to warn parents of a child’s peculiar behavior prior to the child’ssuicide.

Parents who fail to notice suicidal signs in their teenage children should be held to a standard of care for their children that is similar to or greater than the specific standard parents apply when the child is in a school’s custody.

xx

 

Some of the references and more notes:

G. Steven Neeley, The Psychological and Emotional Abuse of Children: Suing Parents in Tort for the Infliction of Emotional Distress, 27 N. KY. L. REV. 689, 691(2000) (discussing how emotional neglect is less identifiable than physical neglect).

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AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF SUICIDOLOGY, YOUTH SUICIDE FACT SHEET 1 (2006),

suicidology.org/associations/1045/files/youth2004.pdf
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See Sierra Koester, Emotional Neglect: When Parents Aren’t There, ASSOCIATED CONTENT (2008), associatedcontent.com/pop_print.shtml?content_type=article&content_type_id=173035 (pointing out forms of neglect other than physical forms)

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Studies show that depression is the leading cause of suicide among adolescents.21

http://www.suicidology.org/associations/1045/files/youth2004.pdf

21 See YOUTH SUICIDE FACT SHEET, supra note 9, at 4–5 (stating that “depression plays a large rolein suicide” and that it is a risk factor for suicide); Christopher K. Varley PsychopharmacologicalTreatment of Major Depressive Disorder in Children and Adolescents, 290 J. AM. MED. ASSOC. 1091,1091, (2003) (noting that depression is a major risk factor associated with suicide).

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discretion or authority – a parent, for example, might confine a child to hours of solitude in his or her room for doing something wrong as a meansto teach the child not act that way in the future.262 However, a questionarises as to where to “draw the proper line of demarcation” between parental conduct being harmful to the emotional stability of his or her child and the parental behavior that is “warranted, corrective, and even morally therapeutic.”263 Furthermore, what about the subtler acts of parents that can “mentally devastate” a teenager by ways that objective third parties cannot synthesize?264 In today’s society, statistics suggest that 80 to 95% of people have grown up in dysfunctional h omes and did not receive “the love,nurturing, and guidance necessary to form healthy relationships and to feel good about themselves . . . .”265 If the majority of jurors and judges were emotionally neglected as children and teenagers, and continue the dysfunctional parenting cycle by treating their own children with the same detachment, how can they be expected to objectively identify other parents who fail to mee t their emotional duties to their children?266 This demonstrates the vicious cycle of emotional instability that is perpetuated by the failure to recognize its damaging effects.


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Poor parental relationships have been associated with suicidal behavior in adolescents.103 Decreased parental nurturance and increased parental rejection were correlated with increased suicidal ideation and suicide attempts by early adolescents.104 Clinical reports have demonstrated that suicidal teenage patients displayed less warmth within their families than adolescents in comparative families.105 The concept of warm interaction between parent and child exists where the parent uses “positive communication, offers support and affection, demonstrates a close relationship high in relationship quality, and demonstrates interest and provides quality time in the adolescent’s life.”106 The factors that are encompassed in the notion of “warmth” are vital interactions, and the onusfalls on the parents to fulfill them.


More specifically, the behavior andinteractions between mothers and their children have been proven to have astronger direct effect on adolescent suicidality than those between fathersand children.

to provide a child with a safe environment, food, and clothes.69

Parents can also neglect their child emotionally, and emotional neglect is as damaging to a child’s development and well-being as other more tangible forms of neglect.70

On the most basic level, “emotional neglect is the failure to provide affection or love or other kinds of emotional support.” 71

Within thelegal realm, emotional neglect is, “the deprivation, by a parent or person in loco parentis, of love, affection, or feelings, with a resulting adverse effecton the ability of the child to develop satisfactory relationships with such parent or person in loco parentis, or with other persons generally.”72

Thereare a number of ways children can be emotionally neglected by their parents, including: 73 “inadequate attention to a child’s emotional needs, need for affection, lack of emotional support . . . [and] refusing or delaying needed psychological treatment for a child’s behavior or emotional issue.”74

The omission or the withholding of words can become emotional neglect.75

emotional neglect becomes relevant when parentignore or reject their child or isolate him or her from interacting with other children or adults)

The effects of emotional neglect are severe.76

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9 (commenting that although some emotionally deprived children eventuallymake adequate adjustments later in life, the majority of neglected children become delinquents

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noting that emotionally neglectful parents often blame othersfor their own failures, feel worthless and inadequa

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http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/signs.cfm (last visited Mar.8, 2009) (discussing the signs of an emotionally abused child).



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It is the duty of child welfare agencies to bring suits against parents who turn a blind eye to their child’sneeds


see also Bill Schechner, Letter to Editor, Let’s Stop Calling Teen-age Suicides Senseless,N.Y. TIMES, Mar. 23, 1987, available at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE4DD1539F930A25757C0A961948260&scp=20&sq=parental%20pressure%20leads%20to%20teen%20suicide&st=cse (noting lack of parental presence can be a contributing factor to teenagesuicide)

and the fact that he did not want to go to school, and how the DFC, Daniel’s school, and the court for juvenile matters all failed to evaluate Daniel emotionally)