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OBJECTIVE: Parental suicidal behavior is associated with offspring's risk of suicidal behavior. However, much of the available evidence is from population registers or clinical samples. We investigated the associations of self-reported parental suicide attempt (SA) with offspring self-harm and suicidal thoughts in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a prospective birth cohort. METHOD: Parental SA was self-reported on 10 occasions from pregnancy until their child was 11 years of age. Offspring self-reported lifetime self-harm, with and without suicidal intent, suicidal thoughts, and suicide plans, at age 16 to 17 years. Multivariable regression models quantified the association between parental SA and offspring outcomes controlling for confounders. RESULTS: Data were available for 4,396 mother-child and 2,541 father-child pairs. Adjusting for confounders including parental depression, maternal SA was associated with a 3-fold increased risk of self-harm with suicidal intent in their children (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 2.94, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.43-6.07) but not with self-harm without suicidal intent (aOR = 0.83, 95% CI = 0.35-1.99). Children whose mother attempted suicide were more likely to report suicidal thoughts and plans (aOR = 5.04, 95% CI = 2.24-11.36; aOR = 2.17, 95% CI = 1.07-4.38, respectively). Findings in relation to paternal SA were somewhat weaker and not significant. CONCLUSIONS: Maternal SA increased their offspring's risk of self-harm with suicidal intent and of suicidal thoughts, but was unrelated to self-harm without intent; findings for paternal suicide attempt were weaker and not significant. Maternal SA, which may not come to the attention of health care professionals, represents a major risk for psychiatric morbidity in their offspring.

Original publication




Journal article


J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry

Publication Date





509 - 17.e2


ALSPAC, birth cohort, child psychopathology, longitudinal study, parental self-harm, Adolescent, Child of Impaired Parents, Cohort Studies, Fathers, Female, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Mothers, Prospective Studies, Risk, Self-Injurious Behavior, Suicidal Ideation, Suicide, Attempted, United Kingdom