Childhood-maltreatment subtypes in bipolar patients with suicidal behavior: systematic review and meta-analysis

Braz J Psychiatry. 2020 Sep-Oct;42(5):558-567. doi: 10.1590/1516-4446-2019-0592.


Objective: Patients with bipolar disorders have a high risk of suicidal behavior. Childhood maltreatment is a well-established risk factor for suicidal behavior. The objective of this study was to examine the association between childhood-maltreatment subtypes and vulnerability to suicide attempts in bipolar disorder using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ).

Methods: A literature review was performed using the MEDLINE, Embase, and PsycINFO databases. Thirteen studies met the selection criteria. In the meta-analysis, the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) was used to assess a wide range of childhood maltreatment subtypes, which were analyzed by using a random-effects model to account for the likely variations of true effect sizes between the included studies.

Results: In the systematic review, 13 studies met the selection criteria. The CTQ was selected for the meta-analysis to increase the homogeneity of assessment and to encompass a wide range of childhood-maltreatment subtypes. The data were analyzed using a random-effects model. Compared to bipolar non-attempters, bipolar suicide attempters had experienced childhood maltreatment with a significantly higher frequency and had higher total CTQ scores (Hedges' g = -0.38, 95%CI -0.52 to -0.24, z = -5.27, p < 0.001) and CTQ sub-scores (sexual abuse: g = -0.39, 95%CI -0.52 to -0.26, z = -5.97; physical abuse: g = -0.26, 95%CI -0.39 to -0.13, z = -4.00; emotional abuse: g = -0.39, 95%CI -0.65 to -0.13, z = -2.97; physical neglect: g = -0.18, 95%CI -0.31 to -0.05, z = -2.79; emotional neglect: g = -0.27, 95%CI -0.43 to -0.11, z = -3.32).

Conclusions: Childhood maltreatment, as assessed by the CTQ, may contribute to an increased risk of suicidal behavior among people with bipolar disorders. Recognizing maltreatment as an etiological risk factor is a crucial step toward furthering science-based preventive psychiatry.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse*
  • Bipolar Disorder*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse*
  • Humans
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide, Attempted
  • Surveys and Questionnaires