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Keywords:

  • beliefs;
  • Canada;
  • cross-language validation;
  • genetics;
  • mental-health literacy;
  • scale development;
  • suicide

Aim:  The genetics underlying suicidal behavior is becoming increasingly recognized and investigated. Convergent evidence towards this end has emerged from numerous research strategies (adoption, family, genome-scan, geographic, immigrant, molecular genetic, surname, and twin studies of suicide). The topic-related mental-health literacy (i.e. knowledge and beliefs) of professionals and laypersons, however, may lag behind this research progress, and data on this question are scant. The aim of the present study was therefore to further validate, in a cross-language setting, the novel 22-item Beliefs in the Inheritance of Risk Factors for Suicide Scale (BIRFSS), originally developed in German, which assesses beliefs about the genetics of suicide.

Methods:  Data were collected from a mixed student sample from Canada (n = 288; 70.5% females, 58.0% studying psychology as a major or minor).

Results:  Factor analysis of BIRFSS items yielded a dominant first factor. Internal scale consistency was, however, only middling (lower than previously observed in Austrian samples). Although the structure of beliefs about the genetics of suicide seems to be complex, the Canadian sample's item-performance indicators corresponded strongly to those obtained in Austrian samples, thus indicating cross-sample and cross-language robustness of item statistics.

Conclusion:  For the Canadian sample, BIRFSS scores were positively related to overall and specific knowledge about suicide and general beliefs about genetic determinism (convergent validity), whereas they were not (or only trivially) related to the Big Five personality dimensions, lay theories of suicide, locus of control, social desirability, religiosity, and political orientation (discriminant validity), and to several key demographic variables. Supplemental findings, study limitations, application possibilities, user recommendations, and avenues for further inquiry are discussed.