B3851 - Intergenerational transmission of self-harm thoughts and behaviors - 24/08/2021

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Becky Mars | University of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Dr Hannah Jones, Professor Stephan Collishaw , Professor Frances Rice
Title of project: 
Intergenerational transmission of self-harm thoughts and behaviors
Proposal summary: 

Research has consistently suggested that offspring of parents with self-harm thoughts and behaviors (STB) are at greater risk for STB themselves. For example, a recent meta-analysis concluded that family history of STB was moderately associated with both offspring suicidal ideation (OR 2.13) and attempts (OR 1.57). However, it is unclear how the risk of STB is transmitted from parent to child, and whether there are protective factors that may modify this association (e.g., peer/family support). Suicidal behavior is known to be heritable, and it is likely that intergenerational effects are driven by a combination of genetic and environmental pathways.

Existing research has tended to be based on small, selected samples, used cross-sectional designs, or used large population-based registries which are limited to those in contact with services. Prior work has also often focused on the impact of parental death by suicide, rather than looking at the range of STB. It has been argued that self-harm is best conceptualized on a continuum of severity, ranging from passive suicidal thoughts to death by suicide and encompassing both suicidal and non-suicidal behaviors (although others argue that suicidal and non-suicidal self-harm are distinct). There is also heterogeneity in the chronicity of STB over time, yet little work has examined whether offspring outcomes differ for different parental phenotypes.

The proposed study will address these knowledge gaps using data from two complementary cohort studies – the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and the Early Prediction of Adolescent Depression Study (EPAD)

Impact of research: 
The findings will improve understanding of the mechanisms of intergenerational transmission of self-harm thoughts and behaviour and will help to inform preventative interventions
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 11 August, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 24 August, 2021
Epidemiology, Mental health, Statistical methods, Cohort studies - attrition, bias, participant engagement, ethics, Genetic epidemiology, Mothers - maternal age, menopause, obstetrics, Offspring, Statistical methods, Intergenerational; mental health