Psychosocial risk factors for suicidality in children and adolescents

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2020 Jun;29(6):759-776. doi: 10.1007/s00787-018-01270-9. Epub 2019 Jan 25.


Suicidality in childhood and adolescence is of increasing concern. The aim of this paper was to review the published literature identifying key psychosocial risk factors for suicidality in the paediatric population. A systematic two-step search was carried out following the PRISMA statement guidelines, using the terms 'suicidality, suicide, and self-harm' combined with terms 'infant, child, adolescent' according to the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health classification of ages. Forty-four studies were included in the qualitative synthesis. The review identified three main factors that appear to increase the risk of suicidality: psychological factors (depression, anxiety, previous suicide attempt, drug and alcohol use, and other comorbid psychiatric disorders); stressful life events (family problems and peer conflicts); and personality traits (such as neuroticism and impulsivity). The evidence highlights the complexity of suicidality and points towards an interaction of factors contributing to suicidal behaviour. More information is needed to understand the complex relationship between risk factors for suicidality. Prospective studies with adequate sample sizes are needed to investigate these multiple variables of risk concurrently and over time.

Keywords: Adolescents; Children; Psychosocial; Questionnaire; Resilience; Risk; Suicidality; Web-based; Youth.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide / psychology*