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J Abnorm Psychol. 2011 May;120(2):400-13. doi: 10.1037/a0021805.

Suicidality as a function of impulsivity, callous-unemotional traits, and depressive symptoms in youth.

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Psychology, 603 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820, USA.


Suicidality represents one of the most important areas of risk for adolescents, with both internalizing (e.g., depression, anxiety) and externalizing-antisocial (e.g., substance use, conduct) disorders conferring risk for suicidal ideation and attempts (e.g., Bridge, Goldstein, & Brent, 2006). However, no study has attended to gender differences in relationships between suicidality and different facets of psychopathic tendencies in youth. Further, very little research has focused on disentangling the multiple manifestations of suicide risk in the same study, including behaviors (suicide attempts with intent to die, self-injurious behavior) and general suicide risk marked by suicidal ideation and plans. To better understand these relationships, we recruited 184 adolescents from the community and in treatment. As predicted, psychopathic traits and depressive symptoms in youth showed differential associations with components of suicidality. Specifically, impulsive traits uniquely contributed to suicide attempts and self-injurious behaviors, above the influence of depression. Indeed, once psychopathic tendencies were entered in the model, depressive symptoms only explained general suicide risk marked by ideation or plans but not behaviors. Further, callous-unemotional traits conferred protection from suicide attempts selectively in girls. These findings have important implications for developing integrative models that incorporate differential relationships between (a) depressed mood and (b) personality risk factors (i.e., impulsivity and callous-unemotional traits) for suicidality in youth.

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