A multidimensional study of adolescent suicidal ideation.

Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Balance, W.


Psychology, Clinical.




This study presents an empirical investigation of the author's multidimensional theory of adolescent suicidal ideation. Shneidman's (1985) thesis on suicide was used as the framework for its perspective. A spectrum of theories of suicide and psychopathology was employed to make this framework operational. Six dysfunctional subsystems are believed to co-determine adolescent suicidal ideation: I. Needs Subsystem. This subsystem is composed of constructs representing neediness and psychological pain; II. Cognitive Subsystem. This subsystem is composed of constructs representing dysfunctional beliefs and basic trust; III. Relational Subsystem. Constructs representing self-disclosure comprise this subsystem; IV. Affective Subsystem. Constructs representing angry moods, depression and hopelessness comprise this subsystem; V. Regulatory Subsystem. This subsystem is composed of constructs representing ego defense mechanisms; and VI. Volitional Subsystem. Constructs representing the desire to hurt the self and belief in suicide as a solution comprise this subsystem. Sixty-seven adolescents (20 adolescent suicidal-clinical ideators, 20 nonsuicidal-clinical adolescents and 27 nonsuicidal-nonclinical adolescents) between 13 and 18 years of age completed self-report questionnaires representing the constructs within each of the six subsystems. The author predicted that the suicidal group would differ from both the clinical and control groups on the variables of interest. The results showed that the Cognitive, Affective and Volitional subsystems provided variables which had the strongest effect sizes and best differentiated adolescent suicidal ideators from the clinical and nonclinical controls. After cross-validation, the results of the discriminant function analysis revealed that the solution predicted membership in the suicidal and nonsuicidal groups in 79% of the cases, a 29% improvement over chance, with five variables providing the strongest discriminating power among the twenty variables assessed in this study: Basic Trust, Adherence to the Belief that Disagreeing with Father is Destructive, Hopelessness, Desire to Hurt the Self, and Belief in Suicide as a Solution. Results also indicated that depression was a weaker discriminator, not being among the top five discriminating variables, and not having significantly reduced the effect size of each of the above five variables when employed as a covariate in posthoc ANCOVA. Although constructs from the Needs and Regulatory subsystems had weaker effect sizes, significant variable relationships among the six subsystems were found. As a whole, the results corroborated the author's view that adolescent suicidal ideation is a multidimensional phenomenon. Results also showed that the suicidal group did not experience significantly more psychological pain and recent life stress than the clinical controls. Furthermore, peer variables did not significantly differentiate the suicidal group from the clinical and control groups. The results were discussed with reference to the author's multidimensional perspective and recent findings from research on mother-child emotional communication. The writer argued that suicidal ideation in adolescence may occur as a result of life-long frustration of maternally-gratified empathy needs which foster cognitive, relational, affective, regulatory and volitional deficits in the capacity of the ego to weather maturation.Dept. of Psychology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1990 .C644. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 52-11, Section: B, page: 6079. Chairperson: William Balance. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1990.

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