A new study has indicated that children who show early signs of problem behavior are more likely to have thoughts of killing or harming themselves.
The new study examined 387 youth between the ages of 10 and 13. The youth, who were recruited from public schools in Philadelphia, completed the Youth Self-Report questionnaire, which included two questions on thinking about or attempting to kill or hurt themselves.
Twenty-three boys (5.9 percent) answered positively to at least one of the questions and these youth, when compared with those who answered "no" to the questions, were also more likely to experience symptoms of depression, sleep problems, and impulsive and aggressive behaviour.
In addition, they also reported risk-taking behaviour including gambling, sex and drug use.
The researchers found that many of the youth's problems were "underrecognized" by their caregivers. Parents of the kids who had contemplated suicide reported similar levels of medical or behavioural issues in their children as did parents of kids who had not reported suicide ideation.
"We know the prevalence of suicidal ideation increases as we progress through adolescence," Matthew Wintersteen, the study leader from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, said.
"There are data that even youth as young as 6 years of age have died by suicide, so it is arguably the case that it is never too early to screen when children are exhibiting warning signs," he said.
Lanny Berman, the executive director of the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), agreed that problem behaviours often lead to suicidal tendencies in kids.
"Problem behaviours are often acute risk factors for suicidal behaviour, so these, indeed, should be clarion calls to a parent for a more extensive evaluation of the child's risk for suicide," Berman said.
The study has been published in the latest issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.