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Home > Research Articles > Children whose parents have attempted suicide are at a higher risk for attempting suicide


Saturday, October 26, 2002

NewsRx.com- October 24, 2002

The children of parents who have attempted suicide at some point in their lives have an increased risk of attempting suicide themselves, according to an article published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

David A. Brent, MD, of the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and colleagues studied the children of two groups of depressed adults: those who had attempted suicide and adults who had never attempted suicide.

The researchers studied 81 parents who had attempted suicide and 55 parents who had never attempted suicide with 183 and 116 biological children, respectively.

The researchers found that parents who attempted suicide made their first attempt around age 30, and 56% made multiple attempts. Compared with nonattempters, parents who attempted suicide had were more likely to have been exposed to sexual abuse (39% in attempters versus 18% in nonattempters), although there was no difference between the two groups with regard to physical abuse.

Twelve percent of attempters' children attempted suicide, and 2% of nonattempters' children attempted suicide. The authors also found that 82% of suicide attempts by offspring occurred within the context of a mood disorder such as depression.

"This high-risk family study found a strong and specific familial transmission of early-onset suicidal behavior from parent to child," the authors wrote. "Offspring of attempters had a sixfold increased risk for a suicide attempt, relative to offspring of nonattempters, comparable to rates reported in adoption, twin and family studies of suicide and suicidal behavior" (Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2002;59:801-807; archgenpsychiatry.com).

The authors concluded that, "Parents with mood disorders who have made suicide attempts and have been sexually abused are highly likely to have children who attempt suicide. Conversely, children with mood disorders are at greater risk for an attempt if they also show evidence of impulsive aggression, have been sexually abused, and have parents with the aforementioned risk factors."

This work was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health. This article was prepared by Pain & Central Nervous System Week editors from staff and other reports.

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┬ęCopyright 2002, Pain & Central Nervous System Week via NewsRx.com & NewsRx.net