Familial Transmission of Suicidal Behavior: Factors Mediating the Relationship Between Childhood Abuse and Offspring Suicide Attempts
J Clin Psychiatry 2008;69(4):584-596
© Copyright 2017 Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.
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Background: Self-reported childhood sexual abuse is associated
with major depression and with suicidal behavior. The current study
investigates the relationship between reported childhood abuse and the familial
transmission of suicidal behavior and other related risk factors.
Method: 507 offspring of 271 parent probands with DSM-IV major
depressive disorder were compared according to the reported childhood abuse
history on demographic, diagnostic, and clinical variables related to risk for
suicidal behavior. Both self-report and clinical interview measures assessed
history of childhood physical and sexual abuse. The study was conducted from
May 1997 to February 2004.
Results: Reported childhood sexual abuse, but not physical
abuse, in the proband correlated with suicide attempts, posttraumatic stress
disorder, earlier onset of major depressive disorder, higher levels of
impulsivity, and greater likelihood of childhood sexual abuse in the offspring
and was rarely perpetrated by the affected parent. A reported history of
childhood physical abuse was related to more lifetime aggression in the
Conclusions: Reported childhood sexual abuse is a risk factor
for suicidal behavior in parent and offspring. Transmission of suicide risk
across generations is related to the familial transmission of sexual abuse and
impulsivity. Sexual abuse is not directly transmitted by the victim to the next
generation and may be related to family dynamics related to sexual abuse.