The relationship between profiles and transitions of internalizing and externalizing symptoms in children and suicidal thoughts in early adolescence

Dylan Johnson, John D McLennan, Jon Heron, Ian Colman

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

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Abstract

BACKGROUND
Adolescence is a high-risk period for the onset of suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Identification of preceding patterns of internalizing and externalizing symptoms that are associated with subsequent suicidal thoughts may offer a better understanding of how to prevent adolescent suicide.

METHODS
Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY), a prospective population-based Canadian cohort, contained Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) items which were used to examine profiles and transitions of internalizing and externalizing symptoms in children, aged 6 – 11 years (n=8,266). The association between these profiles/transitions and suicidal thoughts in adolescents were examined using multivariate logistic regression modelling.

RESULTS
Latent profile analyses identified four measurement invariant profiles of internalizing and externalizing symptoms at ages 6/7 and 10/11: (1) low on all symptoms, (2) moderate on all symptoms, (3) high on all symptoms, and (4) high on hyperactivity/inattention and internalizing. Recurrent (homotypic or heterotypic) and increasing symptoms from 6/7 to 10/11 were associated with suicidal thoughts in adolescence, compared to those with stable low symptoms. Those with decreasing symptoms from 6/7 to 10/11 were not at increased risk of suicidal thought in adolescence.

CONCLUSIONS
While patterns of recurrent symptoms were associated with suicidal thoughts, a similar association was observed between profiles at age 10/11 years and suicidal thoughts. This suggests that the recent assessments of mental health symptoms in children may be as sufficient a predictor of adolescent suicidal thought as transition profiles.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Medicine
Early online date2 Oct 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Oct 2019

Keywords

  • adolescence
  • childhood
  • externalizing
  • internalizing
  • suicidal thoughts

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