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Risk factors for suicidality in young children

24 July 1998


The literature on risk factors for suicidality in children is reviewed. Epidemiology
is explored, as well as problems inherent in the lack of agreed-upon criteria and
terms. The child's concept of death is examined. Biological and psychopathological risk factors are investigated, as well as abuse and family
risk factors. While suicidality is multi-determined, some factors did emerge:
prior suicide, attempts, depression, visual hallucinations, disturbed attachment
and lack of family cohesion. Use of mental health services by the parents was a
risk factor; specific psychiatric diagnoses in the parents which appear to be risk
factors are somatization disorder, anti-social personality disorder, and substance abuse. Suicide in the family history appears to be associated with
suicidal ideation in children, but not with suicide attempts.


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