Parent and Child Psychopathology and Suicide Attempts among Children of Parents with Alcohol Use Disorder

Kenneth R. Conner, Robert M. Bossarte, Naiji Lu, Kimberly Kaukeinen, Grace Chan, Peter Wyman, Xin M. Tu, David B. Goldston, Rebecca J. Houston, Kathleen K. Bucholz, Victor M. Hesselbrock

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14 Scopus citations


Parents with psychopathology such as alcohol use disorder (AUD) that confers risk for suicide attempt (SA) may have children who are more likely to develop such psychopathology and to attempt suicide, suggesting that risk may be "transmitted" from parents to children. We examined this phenomenon during the transition from childhood to adolescence, when risk for SA increases dramatically. A cohort of 418 children were examined at average age 9.4 (range 7-14) years at enrollment (Time 1, childhood) and approximately 5 years later, prior to reaching age 18 (Time 2, adolescence). One or both biological parents, oversampled for AUD, were also interviewed. Structural equation models (SEM) examined father-child, mother-child, and either/both parent-child associations. The primary outcome was SA over follow-up among offspring, assessed at Time 2. As hypothesized, parental antisocial personality disorder predicted conduct disorder symptoms in offspring both during childhood and adolescence (parent-child model, father-child model) and maternal AUD predicted conduct disorder symptoms during childhood (mother-child model). However, we did not find evidence to support transmission of depression from parents to offspring either during childhood or adolescence, and parent psychopathology did not show statistically significant associations with SA during adolescence. In conclusion, we conducted a rare study of parent-to-child "transmission" of risk for SA that used a prospective research design, included diagnostic interviews with both parents and offspring, and examined the transition from childhood to adolescence, and the first such study in children of parents with AUD. Results provided mixed support for hypothesized parent-child associations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-130
Number of pages14
JournalArchives of Suicide Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • adolescent
  • alcohol use disorder
  • parent
  • risk factor
  • suicide attempt


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