Year: 2022 Source: Archives of Suicide Research. (2022). DOI: 10.1080/13811118.2022.2112118 SIEC No: 20220882

Background: Childhood adversity (CA) is linked to suicidal behavior as well as to mood disorders and aggressive traits. This raises the possibility that depression and aggressive traits mediate the relationship of childhood adversity to suicide risk. Moreover, it is not known if they operate independently or interactively.

Aims: To determine whether, and how, mood disorders and aggressive traits mediate the effects of reported physical and sexual abuse on future suicidal behavior.

Methods: Five hundred and forty-eight subjects, offspring of parents with mood disorders, were interviewed at baseline and at yearly follow-ups with questionnaires assessing aggression, mood disorders, and suicidal behavior. The mediation analysis involved a three-step process, testing the relationships between (1) CA and attempt; (2) CA and putative mediators; and (3) putative mediators and suicide attempt, adjusting for CA.

Results: Aggressive trait severity and mood disorder onset each mediated the relationship between CA and future suicide attempts. Greater aggression severity also raised the hazard of the development of a mood disorder. If aggressive trait severity was clearly elevated, then onset of mood disorder did not increase further the hazard of the suicide attempt. Including family as a random effect had a much bigger effect on attempt outcome for physical abuse compared with sexual abuse.

Conclusions: Amelioration of aggressive traits and treatment of mood disorders in CA-exposed offspring of a parent with a mood disorder may prevent future suicide attempts and may reduce the risk of mood disorder. Familial factors influence the impact of childhood physical abuse but not sexual abuse.