Suicidal ideation in adult offspring of depressed and matched control parents: Childhood and concurrent predictors

Helen Valenstein, Ruth C. Cronkite, Rudolf H. Moos, Cassandra Snipes, Christine Timko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background Suicidal ideation predicts suicide behaviors; however, research is needed on risk factors for suicidal ideation in adults, a common developmental period for first suicide attempts.Aims To examine childhood and concurrent predictors of suicidal ideation among 340 adult offspring of depressed and matched control parents.Method Parents were assessed at baseline, and adult offspring were assessed 23 years later.Results Offspring who reported past-month suicidal ideation (7) had parents who, 23 years earlier, reported suicidal ideation, psychological inflexibility and use of avoidance coping. Offspring experiencing suicidal ideation were more likely to be unemployed and more depressed, consumed more alcohol and had more drinking problems. They were more anxious and inflexible, had weaker social ties and less cohesive families and had more negative life events and used more avoidance coping. A childhood risk index predicted offspring's suicidal ideation above and beyond concurrent factors.Conclusions Along with concurrent risk factors, poor parental functioning may confer long-term risk for adult suicidal ideation. Interventions to prevent the transmission of suicidal ideation to offspring should focus on ameliorating parental risk factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-468
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Mental Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Declaration of Interest: Work was supported by Eli Lilly and the Department of Veterans Affairs.


  • Adult suicidal ideation
  • Offspring functioning
  • Parent functioning
  • Suicide


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