Adopted children may be more likely than their non-adopted siblings to attempt suicide, according to a new U.S. study.
Researchers urged doctors to be on the lookout for signs of trouble in adopted teen patients but said parents should not be overly alarmed by the results.
"While our findings suggest that adoptees may have an elevated risk for suicide attempt, the majority of the adopted individuals in our study were psychologically well-adjusted," lead author Margaret Keyes, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the agency, 4,600 youth deaths each year in the U.S. are suicides, and a much larger number of young people make attempts to take their own lives.
Previous research in Sweden found that adopted kids in that country were more likely to attempt suicide than nonadopted kids, but no comparable study had been done in the U.S., according to Keyes and her coauthors writing in the journal Pediatrics.
They examined data from an existing University of Minnesota study of 692 adopted children and 540 non adopted siblings in Minnesota.
All of the adopted kids, who were between 11 and 21 years old during the study period, had been taken in by their families before age two and had a biologically unrelated teenage sibling in the same home.
Almost three quarters of the adopted children were born abroad, most of the foreign-born children were from South Korea and 60 percent of those were girls.
At the beginning of the study, and again about three years later, the researchers asked participating parents and kids if either of the children had made a suicide attempt.
Over the three years of the study, 56 children attempted suicide at least once, according to the family members' reports. Of those kids, 47 were adopted and nine were not adopted.
When previous self-harm behavior was taken into account, researchers calculate