Broad and narrow personality traits as markers of one-time and repeated suicide attempts: A population-based study

Brezo, Jelena; Paris, Joel; Hébert, Martine; Vitaro, Frank; Tremblay, Richard; Turecki, Gustavo
January 2008
BMC Psychiatry;2008, Vol. 8, Special section p1
Academic Journal
Background: Studying personality traits with the potential to differentiate between individuals engaging in suicide attempts of different degrees of severity could help us to understand the processes underlying the link of personality and nonfatal suicidal behaviours and to identify at-risk groups. One approach may be to examine whether narrow, i.e., lower-order personality traits may be more useful than their underlying, broad personality trait dimensions. Methods: We investigated qualitative and quantitative differences in broad and narrow personality traits between one-time and repeated suicide attempters in a longitudinal, population-based sample of young French Canadian adults using two multivariate regression models. Results: One broad (Compulsivity: OR = 2.0; 95% CI 1.2-3.5) and one narrow personality trait (anxiousness: OR = 1.1; 95% CI 1.01-1.1) differentiated between individuals with histories of repeated and one-time suicide attempts. Affective instability [(OR = 1.1; 95% CI 1.04-1.1)] and anxiousness [(OR = .92; 95% CI .88-.95)], on the other hand, differentiated between nonattempters and one-time suicide attempters. Conclusion: Emotional and cognitive dysregulation and associated behavioural manifestations may be associated with suicide attempts of different severity. While findings associated with narrow traits may be easier to interpret and link to existing sociobiological theories, larger effect sizes associated with broad traits such as Compulsivity may be better suited to objectives with a more clinical focus.


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