Research Article

Early childhood attachment and suicidal ideation among young Kenyan men


Michael L. Goodman, Derrick Gibson, Thiennga T. Vo, Aaron Wang, Stanley Gitari, Ben Raimer


Goodman, M. L., Gibson, D., Vo, T. T., Wang, A., Gitari, S., & Raimer, B. (2018). Early childhood attachment and suicidal ideation among young Kenyan men. Advances in Life Course Research, 35, 126-134.

Publication Date

Mar 1, 2018

Publication Year




The interpersonal theory of suicide posits that suicide behavior is driven by two interpersonal dynamics – perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness.

Attachment theory posits that one’s sense of belonging may stem from social attachments during childhood. In this study, we investigate whether these two theories may be meaningfully combined to provide a life course perspective on suicide ideation among young Kenyan men (age 18–34 years).

We find that respondents who recalled childhood attachments that were less safe and warm were significantly more likely to report suicide ideation, a pathway that was significantly mediated by present loneliness.

Consistent with the interpersonal theory of suicide, the association between loneliness and suicide ideation was significantly mediated by less meaning in life and hope. Suicide ideation in adulthood may be prevented by promoting more secure attachments during childhood.