Suicide Risk Higher in Kids Whose Parents Have Tried to Kill Themselves


In the United States, at least one million people intentionally harm themselves every year, and a portion of them do so during deliberate attempts to commit suicide. The JAMA Psychiatry journal has published the results of a new study which determined that children whose parents suffered from a mood disorder and attempted to kill themselves may have a much greater risk of doing the same.

Members of the research group included Dr. David A. Brent from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, PA. In the results published, Brent referred to prior studies which found that the risk of killing oneself may be hereditary. Medical News Today reported on a study conducted from July, 1997, to June, 2012, which determined that the two years after a parent tries to commit suicide, the risk of the children of that person doing the same is higher.

Brent and his colleagues wanted to study why suicide attempts seem to run in families. In order to do so, the research team studied 334 parents who had mood disorders as well as their 701 children, aged between 10 and 50 years old. One hundred ninety-one of the parents had tried to kill themselves, which equaled 57.2 percent. The children whose parents had attempted to commit suicide were then studied for an average length of 5.6 years.

The children were subject to structured psychiatric testing and filled out self-reported surveys. The combination of both allowed the research team to assess whether any suicidal tendencies or mental health disorders existed in the children. Of the 701 children studied, 44 of them (6.3 percent) had tried to kill themselves before the start of the study. Twenty-nine (4.1 percent) did so during the follow-up to the study. Of the 29, 19 (65.5 percent) had attempted to kill themselves for the first time.

The researchers took into account any prior suicide attempts by the children as well as inherited mood disorders, but still determined that children whose parents attempt to kill themselves have nearly a five-time greater chance of making a suicide attempt themselves. The study did find that as the participants grew older, the rates of depression among the children went from 29.6 percent in the first two years to 48.2 percent by the time the study ended. The higher depression rates could explain why the children of those who had attempted to kill themselves were at a greater risk of suicide themselves.

Impulsive aggression was found to play a big part in the increased chances of a child committing suicide, but the increased rate was due to the higher risk that those children would develop a mood disorder. This, in turn, would increase the likelihood of an attempt. Due to this finding, Dr. Brent and his team of researchers recommend that interventions be made to target this type of aggression in children who have a higher chance of attempting suicide due to their family history.

The third leading cause of death in children from 10 to 24 is suicide, and about 4,600 die each year. Still more children are not successful in their attempt to kill themselves. Researchers found that across the U.S., 16 percent of students in grades 9 to 12 have seriously thought about committing suicide, 13 percent had planned to do it and eight percent had tried. In all, approximately 157,000 children nationwide are treated for injuries which are self-inflicted each year.

By Jennifer Pfalz

Medical Daily
The JAMA Network
Science Times

Photo by Max Doschini – License

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