Parental History of Suicide Attempt Associated with Increased Risk in Kids


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JAMA Psychiatry

A suicide attempt by a parent increased the odds nearly 5-fold that a child would attempt suicide, according to a report published online by JAMA Psychiatry.

Other studies have established that suicidal behavior can run in families but few studies have looked at the pathways by which suicidal behavior is transmitted in families.

David A. Brent, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pennsylvania, and coauthors report on the children of parents with mood disorders who were followed for an average of nearly six years. The study included 701 children (ages 10 to 50 years) of 334 parents with mood disorders, of whom 191 (57.2 percent) had also made a suicide attempt.

Of the 701 offspring 44 (6.3 percent) had made a suicide attempt before participating in the study and 29 (4.1 percent) attempted suicide during the study follow-up.  Authors found a direct effect of a parent’s suicide attempt on a suicide attempt by their child, even after researchers took into account a history of previous suicide attempt by the offspring and a familial transmission of mood disorder.

“Impulsive aggression was an important precursor of mood disorder and could be targeted in interventions designed to prevent youth at high familial risk from making a suicide attempt,” the study concludes.

(JAMA Psychiatry. Published online December 30, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.2141. Available pre-embargo to the media at

Editor’s Note: Authors made conflict of interest disclosures. The study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and a Young Investigator Award from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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