Suicidality among Latina adolescents : the relative effects of psychosocial risk factors and psychological symptoms




Alvarez, Kiara

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In national surveys of adolescents, Latina females have been found to have higher rates of suicidal ideation and attempts when compared to Latino males and to non-Latino White and Black males and females (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2014). The reasons for these gender and racial disparities in suicidal behavior have not been definitively established. Prior research indicates that suicidal behavior among adolescents is influenced by both individual-level psychological symptoms and by psychosocial risk factors (Bridge, Goldstein, & Brent, 2006; King & Merchant, 2008; Prinstein, Boergers, Spirito, Little, & Grapentine, 2000). Among Latina adolescents in particular, the interplay between cultural processes and family relationships has been identified as a key influence on suicidal behavior (Zayas, 2011). The purpose of this study was to build upon Zayas’s (2011) model of suicidality among adolescent Latinas by evaluating the relative effects of individual, family, and peer factors on suicidal ideation, plans, and attempts. A latent variable structural equation model (SEM) was developed and tested using a sample that included 946 Latinas aged 13 to 18 who were interviewed for a national psychiatric epidemiological survey, the National Comorbidity Survey – Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A; Kessler, 2013). The SEM model measured the direct and indirect effects of the latent variables of generation status, peer support, negative peer influence, family relationships, and depression on suicidality. Results of the study indicated that higher levels of depression, poorer family relationships, and higher levels of negative peer influence resulted in higher levels of suicidality. The influence of family relationships and negative peer influence on suicidality were partially mediated by depression; however, negative peer influence also had a substantial direct effect on suicidality. Results of this study support a clinical focus on multisystemic interventions for Latina adolescents that address functioning at individual, family, and peer levels, as well as further investigation into the pathways by which negative peer influence impacts suicidality in this population.



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