Year: 2019 Source: Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences. (2019), 1-9. Published online 4 February 2019. SIEC No: 20190188

Aims. The nature of the association between child psychiatric symptoms and adolescent suicide-related thoughts (SRT) and attempts (SA) remains unclear. Our objective was to assess whether child psychiatric symptoms from 6 to 10 years of age mediate the association between exposure to maternal depressive symptoms in childhood and offspring SRT and SA in adolescence.
Methods. A population-based cohort study was constructed by linking all eight cycles from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY), a nationally representative Canadian panel survey conducted from 1994 to 2009. Self-reported maternal depressive symptoms were measured when offspring were between 0 and 5 years. Maternal-reported child psychiatric symptoms and psychiatric comorbid symptoms were measured from 6 to 10 years, and offspring self-reported SRT and SA were measured between 11 and 19 years. Indirect effects, the effect proportion mediated and their corresponding bootstrapped 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated.
Results. Hyperactivity and inattention significantly mediated the association between maternal depressive symptoms in childhood and risk of both SRT and SA from 11 to 19 years, where approximately 60% (SRT 95% CI 23–94%; SA 95% CI 27–95%) of this association was explained by hyperactivity and inattention. Psychiatric comorbid symptoms also significantly mediated this relationship and accounted for 50% (95% CI 18–81%) of this association with SA.
Conclusions. Targeting hyperactivity and inattention, and co-occurring psychiatric symptoms in offspring of depressed mothers could reduce risk of SRT, eventual SA and halt progression towards suicide. However, further understanding of comorbid psychiatric symptoms in childhood that most strongly predict adolescent SA is needed.