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Adolescence. 1993 Winter;28(112):851-65.

Risk factors for adolescent suicidal behavior: loss, insufficient familial support, and hopelessness.

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  • 1Child and Adolescent Treatment Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53226.


Upon admission to an inpatient psychiatric facility, 20 adolescent serious suicide attempters and 20 nonattempters matched on depression scores were asked about their perceived hopelessness, social support, and loss preceding hospitalization. Attempters and nonattempters were similar in psychiatric status, gender, age, race, and socioeconomic status. Measures included Reynold's (1987) Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire (SIQ) and assessment for recent loss of a significant other. Also included were versions of the Beck Depression Inventory (Beck, 1967), Beck Hopelessness Scale (Beck, Schuyler, & Herman, 1974), Suicide Intent Scale (Beck et al., 1974), and Sarason's Social Support Questionnaire (Sarason, Levine, Basham, & Sarason, 1983) modified to retrospectively assess the period of time just prior to hospitalization. Classification of serious suicide attempt using both staff screening and the Suicide Intent Scale was validated by attempters' high scores on the SIQ. Data show that loss and low family support were the best predictors of an adolescent's suicide attempt. Also, suicide attempters reported more hopelessness than did nonattempters. The influence of recent loss on serious suicide attempts, especially when paired with a perceived lack of family support and hopelessness, provides evidence for a "stress-vulnerability" model of adolescent suicide behavior.

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