Suicidal ideation and attempts: A longitudinal investigation of children of depressed and well mothers

Bonnie Klimes-Dougan, Kathleen Free, Donna Ronsaville, Judy Stilwell, C. Jean Welsh, Marian Radke-Yarrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Objective: This study uses a prospective longitudinal design to examine suicidality (ideation, plans, attempts, and completions) in Children and adolescents, to compare suicidality in the offspring of depressed and well mothers, and to identify correlates and predictors of suicidality. Method: Two children (n = 192) from each of the families in an ongoing longitudinal study of the offspring of mothers with major depressive disorder (n = 42), with bipolar disorder (n = 26), or without past or current psychiatric diagnosis (n = 30) were studied. Assessment of suicidality, based on diagnostic interviews, was made when the younger of the sibling pairs were approximately 6, 9, and 14 years of age and older siblings were approximately 6, 9, 13, and 18 years of age. Results: Children of depressed mothers were more likely to report suicidal thoughts or behaviors than were children of well mothers (particularly the older sibling cohort). Developmental trajectories of suicidality differed for offspring of mothers with major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. Links were found between lifetime reports of suicidality and the adolescent's mood problems (e.g., hypomanic behavior), coping strategies, and parental rejection. Also, child's and mother's suicidality were related. Conclusions: These findings have implications for planning interventions targeted at preventing suicide in youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-659
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This stlld y was supported by the N IMH and the Catherine 1.' M,t,Arthllr Foundation Research Network on the Transition From In/'I1I')' to £'tr/y Child· hood. 77,e authors thank the [amilies who participated ill this study. 'tnd till')' acknowledgetheinualuablr'lSSiSI(I1Jf( (1'theprofessioNalstaff'includingAnnr Mayjirld. Pedro Martinez. Gale lno/FGamaill. (,'rmld Brou-n, EtlitlJtl Nottrlmann, Leon Cvtryn. and Don Mckneio of the larger longitlldini/I stlldy of which these analysesare a pi/rt. The preIe1ltanalyses depmd, too. on tile uorl: of nu merous research assistants, including Eugeni« Michailidou. I:ini(y Figdor, Alicia Green, Pat QllrOIlI1l. Alison Bam] and Richard Sobmrrs.


  • Adolescence
  • Childhood
  • Development
  • Suicide


Dive into the research topics of 'Suicidal ideation and attempts: A longitudinal investigation of children of depressed and well mothers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this