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Monday 24th October 2016

Mothering 'linked to self-esteem'

23rd March 2010

Women gain increased self-worth by mothering many children, according to a recent Taiwanese study.


In Taiwan, where rates of female suicide are high compared with Europe and the US, the women who had the most children also had the lowest suicide rates.

The researchers believe that the low rate may be due to an increased sense of happiness and self-esteem, as well as the feeling of being needed.

They said that it may also be due to the existence of supportive social networks geared toward helping mothers.

The theory that parenthood helps protect against suicide was proposed by Emile Durkheim, a sociologist, around the turn of the last century.

However, since the number of people who actually commit suicide is relatively low, scientists have not been able to investigate Durkheim's theory.

Lead researcher Chun-Yuh Yang, from Kaoshiung Medical University in Taiwan, said that the women included his study were young, making his finding particularly noteworthy.

For the recent Taiwanese study, the researchers looked at 1,292,462 women and followed them over the course of 20 years.

Initially, they found that Durkheim's theory held true, since women who had two children were up to 39% less likely to commit suicide than women who only had one child, and women who had three children were fully 60% less likely to take their own lives than women who only had one child.

Yang said that he perceived a clear tendency of decreasing suicide rates as the number of children a woman mothered increased.

He said that the results controlled for such factors as age at first birth, marital status, level of education.

Alan Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology and president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention, said that, because the current study was the first study in Asia, it added some international confirmation for a finding which other studies had confirmed.

Previously, Norwegian, Danish, and Finnish researchers had also concluded that mothers were at a lower risk for suicide than non-mothers.

Berman said that attachments in general were protective against suicide, and that people who were single, widowed, or divorced were much more likely to kill themselves.


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