In the first study to consider these two adverse outcomes in the same cohort, researchers have shown a strong correlation between parental psychiatric disorder and the increased risk of suicide attempts and violent behaviour in their children.
The research was conducted by a collaborative team of epidemiologists from The University of Manchester's Centre for Mental Health and Safety and Aarhus University's National Centre for Register-based Research ,using records of all children born in Denmark between 1967 and 1997 - a total of 1,743,525 people. The cohort was cross-referenced and linked to any recorded history of mental illness in their parents via the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register. First episodes of suicide attempt and violent offence conviction were investigated from the time when these children turned age 15 years.
Risks for offspring suicide attempt and violent offending were raised across almost all parental psychiatric disorders. The highest risks were found among families where one or both parents were diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, cannabis misuse disorder or prior suicide attempt. On the contrary, parental mood disorders, and bipolar disorder in particular, conferred more modest risk increases.
A history of mental illness in both parents was associated with double the risks of suicide attempt and violent offending in offspring compared with having just one affected parent.
Dr Roger Webb, the study's principal investigator based in the Division of Psychology and Mental Health at The University of Manchester, said the research has profound implications for both healthcare providers as well as social services.
"Psychiatrists and other professionals treating adults with mental disorders and suicidal behaviours should also look to the children of their patients - and assess their mental health and psychosocial needs. Early interventions could benefit not only the parents but also their offspring."
The paper, 'Parental psychiatric disease and risks of attempted suicide and violent criminal offending in offspring: A population-based cohort study', is published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.