Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Children whose parents die by, or attempt, suicide are believed to be at greater risk of suicidal behaviours and affective disorders. We systematically reviewed the literature on these associations and, using meta-analysis, estimated the strength of associations as well as investigated potential effect modifiers (parental and offspring gender, offspring age). METHOD: We comprehensively searched the literature (Medline, PsycINFO, EMBASE, Web of Science), finding 28 articles that met our inclusion criteria, 14 of which contributed to the meta-analysis. Crude odds ratio and adjusted odds ratio (aOR) were pooled using fixed-effects models. RESULTS: Controlling for relevant confounders, offspring whose parents died by suicide were more likely than offspring of two living parents to die by suicide [aOR 1.94, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.54-2.45] but there were heterogeneous findings in the two studies investigating the impact on offspring suicide attempt (aOR 1.31, 95% CI 0.73-2.35). Children whose parents attempted suicide were at increased risk of attempted suicide (aOR 1.95, 95% CI 1.48-2.57). Limited evidence indicated that exposure to parental death by suicide is associated with subsequent risk of affective disorders. Maternal suicidal behaviour and younger age at exposure were associated with larger effect estimates but there was no evidence that the association differed in sons versus daughters. CONCLUSIONS: Parental suicidal behaviour is associated with increased risk of offspring suicidal behaviour. Findings suggest that maternal suicidal behaviour is a more potent risk factor than paternal, and that children are more vulnerable than adolescents and adults. However, there is no evidence of a stronger association in either male or female offspring.

Original publication

DOI

10.1017/S0033291711002753

Type

Journal article

Journal

Psychol Med

Publication Date

08/2012

Volume

42

Pages

1567 - 1580

Keywords

Adolescent, Age Factors, Child, Child of Impaired Parents, Confidence Intervals, Depressive Disorder, Female, Humans, Male, Odds Ratio, Parental Death, Parents, Risk Factors, Sex Factors, Suicide, Suicide, Attempted