Exploring the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide in Sexually-Abusive Youth.

Document Type


Publication Date



Suicide has been recognized as a major public health concern, and recent trends suggest that youth and young adults are two populations in which rates of suicide are increasing (Hedegaard et al., 2018; Miron et al., 2019). Joiner’s (2005) Interpersonal Theory of Suicide (IPTS) is one theoretical mechanism with regard to suicidal behavior that has gained empirical support. This theory involves three proposed constructs: thwarted belongingness, perceived burdensomeness, and acquired capability for suicide. According to the theory, suicide attempts occur when all three constructs are present for an individual. Although the IPTS has evidenced support for a variety of populations, it has scarcely been examined in youth who have engaged in sexually abusive behaviors thus far.

Youth who have engaged in sexually abusive behaviors represent a high-risk population with regard to suicide for several reasons. First, it is documented within the literature that youth involved with the juvenile justice system are at a higher risk for suicidal behaviors (Scott et al., 2015; Shreeram & Malik, 2008). Second, these youth are likely to have experienced a high number of adverse childhood experiences (Barra et al., 2017; Hall et al., 2017; Seto & Lalumière, 2010). Third, many of these youth are involved with the Department of Children Services and oftentimes are relocated to out-of-home placements (e.g., Hall et al., 2017). The combination of adverse childhood experiences and out-of-home placements creates additional suicidal risk for these youth who are already at an increased risk for suicidal behaviors. .

The current study will be apply the IPTS to this unique population, utilizing discrete archival variables, rather than data from self-report questionnaires. The aim of the current study is to conduct an exploratory factor analysis of variables that are hypothesized to be related to the three constructs proposed by Joiner’s (2005) IPTS, and then to use logistic regression analyses to examine if these factors predict suicide attempts. .

Variables of interest include: death of a caregiver, parental divorce/separation, duration of sexual abuse, duration of neglect, witnessing intimate partner violence, number of residential out of-home placements, and number of group out-of-home placements (i.e., thwarted belongingness); number of serious illnesses, duration of incarceration, number of arrests, duration of emotional abuse, number of inpatient psychiatric placements, and homelessness (i.e., perceived burdensomeness); duration of physical abuse, number of caregiver suicide attempts, history of caregiver death by suicide, history of self-harm behaviors, history of animal cruelty, history of aggression towards others, and gang involvement. (i.e., acquired capability for suicide). .

Data for this study were extracted from archival records of male adolescents at a private nonprofit facility who have engaged in sexually abusive behavior. The sample contains 290 adolescent males who have engaged in sexually abusive behaviors ranging from age ten to seventeen (M = 14.81, SD = 1.56) at time of admission. Participants were 82.8% Caucasian/White, 9.7% African American/Black, 4.5% mixed race, 0.7% Hispanic, and 2.4% other/unknown race. The average length of stay for the participants was 13.16 months (SD = 9.85).

Frequencies will be run on the variables of interest. Exploratory factor analysis and regression analyses will be conducted. Analyses will be conducted in R. Further implications of this research will be discussed.


San Antonio, TX

This document is currently not available here.