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PLoS One. 2015 Jul 31;10(7):e0134970. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134970. eCollection 2015.

The Influence of Parental Psychopathology on Offspring Suicidal Behavior across the Lifespan.

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Section of Psychiatric Epidemiology - LIM 23, Department and Institute of Psychiatry, University of Sao Paulo Medical School, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
National Institute of Psychiatry and Metropolitan Autonomous University, Mexico City, Mexico.
Department of Social Medicine and Post-Graduate Program in Public Health, Federal University of Espirito Santo, Vitoria, Brazil.


Suicide tends to occur in families, and parental psychopathology has been linked to offspring suicidal behaviors. This study explores the influence of parental mental disorders across the lifespan. Data are from the Sao Paulo Megacity Mental Health Survey, a cross-sectional household study with a representative sample of the adult population living in the Sao Paulo Metropolitan Area, Brazil (N=2,942). Survival models examined bivariate and multivariate associations between a range of parental disorders and offspring suicidality. After controlling for comorbidity, number of mental disorders and offspring psychopathology, we found that parental psychopathology influences suicidal behaviors throughout most part of the life cycle, from childhood until young adult years. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and antisocial personality were associated with offspring suicidal ideation (OR 1.8 and 1.9, respectively), panic and GAD predicted suicidal attempts (OR 2.3 and 2.7, respectively), and panic was related to the transition from ideation to attempts (OR 2.7). Although noticed in many different stages of the lifespan, this influence is most evident during adolescence. In this period, depression and antisocial personality increased the odds of suicidal ideation (OR 5.1 and 3.2, respectively), and depression, panic disorder, GAD and substance abuse predicted suicidal attempts (OR varying from 1.7 to 3.8). In short, parental disorders characterized by impulsive-aggression and anxiety-agitation were the main predictors of offspring suicidality across the lifespan. This clinically relevant intergenerational transmission of suicide risk was independent of offspring mental disorders, and this underscores the need for a family approach to psychopathology.

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