Bad Behavior Linked to Suicidal Thoughts

Children with behavioral problems at greater risk for depression and suicide

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) When problem behavior starts showing up early in children, parents and other caregivers should recognize and address it. Kids who show early signs of aggressive or impulsive behavior, sleep problems and depression are more likely to have thoughts of harming themselves.

With suicidal ideation and risk-taking behavior increasing throughout the adolescent years, such warning signs are important.

"Pay close attention to problem behavior in children."

Matthew Wintersteen, Ph.D., of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia led an examination of 387 youth between the ages of 10 and 13, in the Philadelphia public school system.

Each child completed the Youth Self-Report questionnaire, which included questions on thinking or attempting to kill or harm one's self.

Twenty-three boys, or 5.9 percent, answered positively to at least one of those questions. Compared to the other children who answered no to these questions, those who answered yes were also more likely to report symptoms of depression, aggression, impulse and other problem behavior, as well as more risk-taking behavior such as drug use, sexual activity or gambling.

The researchers found that many of the problems went under-recognized by the kids' caregivers. Previous research has shown that as youth progress through adolescence, suicide ideation increases.

Children as young as six years old have committed suicide, and Wintersteen says this shows it is never too early to screen for warning signs.

Researchers noted the limitations of this study based on the small respondent sample, and recommended longitudinal research to track predictability of future behavior.

The findings were published in the December 2011 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health

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Review Date: 
December 19, 2011
Last Updated:
December 23, 2011