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Death Stud. 2019 Jan 29:1-11. doi: 10.1080/07481187.2018.1527796. [Epub ahead of print]

The emperor's new clothes? A critical look at the interpersonal theory of suicide.

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a Department of Mental Health , Norwegian University of Science and Technology , Trondheim , Norway.


The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide currently seems to be the most popular theory in suicidology. It posits that suicide can be explained by the simultaneous presence of three risk factors only, namely acquired capability for suicide, thwarted belongingness, and perceived burdensomeness. Suicide is, however, widely accepted as a complex, multifactorial, and contextual phenomenon. It is, therefore, surprising that a theory comprised by three internal factors only is so uncritically embraced by suicide researchers. In this article, we scrutinize the theory's background, core components, and purported empirical evidence and argue that its popularity is highly unwarranted.

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