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Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Jon B. Ellis

Committee Members

Peggy J. Cantrell, Roger C. Bailey


Past research has identified adaptive cognitive beliefs and expectations or reasons for living that appear to be lacking in individuals reporting suicidal ideation. The purpose of this study was to examine possible relationships between birth order and reasons for living. Additionally, gender differences were examined with respect to the relationship between these characteristics and reasons for living. It was hypothesized that women would score higher than men, non-ideators would score higher than ideators, and that middle born individuals would score higher than other birth order groups on the Reasons for Living Inventory (RFL) and the RFL Survival and Coping Beliefs subscale. Additionally, it was anticipated that women who are non-ideators and middle borns would reveal the highest scores and men who are ideators and firstborns would reveal the lowest scores.

Subjects included 219 undergraduate college students (132 females and 87 males) enrolled in introductory psychology courses. Subjects completed a short Self-Report Demographic questionnaire, a brief suicide questionnaire, and the Expanded Reasons for Living Inventory.

Results revealed significant main effects for gender and suicidal ideation. Women scored higher than men and non-ideators scored higher than ideators. No significant main effects were found for birth order, although a significant three-way interaction effect was found for birth order, ideation status, and gender on one subscale of the RFL. Significant two-way interaction effects for ideator status and gender were found on two RFL subscales.

In summary, results of this study do not support the idea that birth order position is predictive of levels of the beliefs and expectancies about life that are measured by the Reasons for Living Inventory. It is possible that there are birth order effects that are masked by such factors as age span between siblings, blended families, or total family size. It is also possible that birth order indeed has some effect, but only in combination with other variables. Future research may use a different research design to assess such effects.

Document Type

Thesis - restricted


Copyright by the authors.