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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1994 Oct;33(8):1087-97.

Suicidal children grow up: suicidal behavior and psychiatric disorders among relatives.

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  • 1Cornell University Medical College, NY.



This paper reports comprehensive data on psychiatric symptoms and disorders and medical problems of first- and second-degree biological relatives of prepubertal children who have contemplated or attempted suicide.


Standard family study and family history interview techniques were used to obtain information about psychopathology and medical illness in 488 first- and 1,062 second-degree relatives of 25 child psychiatric inpatients who reported suicide attempts, 28 child psychiatric inpatients who contemplated suicide, 16 nonsuicidal child inpatients, and 54 normal children.


Suicidal behavior in children was associated with suicidal behavior in their families, although no first-degree relatives committed suicide. More first-degree relatives of child suicide attempters, compared to first-degree relatives of normal children, had antisocial personality disorder, assaultive behavior, and substance abuse. Mood disorders in first-degree relatives were not associated with child suicidal behavior. No significant associations were identified for psychopathology of second-degree relatives and child suicidal behavior.


The results suggest the importance of evaluating familial psychopathology during assessments of suicidal children. Self-directed and externally directed violence, antisocial personality disorder, and substance abuse of relatives of suicidal children should be studied to elucidate the etiology of youth suicidal behavior.

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