Association between Maternal Depression Symptoms across the First Eleven Years of Their Child's Life and Subsequent Offspring Suicidal Ideation

Gemma Hammerton, Liam Mahedy, Becky Mars, Gordon T Harold, Anita Thapar, Stanley Zammit, Stephan Collishaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
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Depression is common, especially in women of child-bearing age; prevalence estimates for this group range from 8% to 12%, and there is robust evidence that maternal depression is associated with mental health problems in offspring. Suicidal behaviour is a growing concern amongst young people and those exposed to maternal depression are likely to be especially at high risk. The aim of this study was to utilise a large, prospective population cohort to examine the relationship between depression symptom trajectories in mothers over the first eleven years of their child's life and subsequent adolescent suicidal ideation. An additional aim was to test if associations were explained by maternal suicide attempt and offspring depressive disorder. Data were utilised from a population-based birth cohort: the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Maternal depression symptoms were assessed repeatedly from pregnancy to child age 11 years. Offspring suicidal ideation was assessed at age 16 years. Using multiple imputation, data for 10,559 families were analysed. Using latent class growth analysis, five distinct classes of maternal depression symptoms were identified (minimal, mild, increasing, sub-threshold, chronic-severe). The prevalence of past-year suicidal ideation at age 16 years was 15% (95% CI: 14-17%). Compared to offspring of mothers with minimal symptoms, the greatest risk of suicidal ideation was found for offspring of mothers with chronic-severe symptoms [OR 3.04 (95% CI 2.19, 4.21)], with evidence for smaller increases in risk of suicidal ideation in offspring of mothers with sub-threshold, increasing and mild symptoms. These associations were not fully accounted for by maternal suicide attempt or offspring depression diagnosis. Twenty-six percent of non-depressed offspring of mothers with chronic-severe depression symptoms reported suicidal ideation. Risk for suicidal ideation should be considered in young people whose mothers have a history of sustained high levels of depression symptoms, even when the offspring themselves do not have a depression diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0131885
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2015

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