Get access

Are Reports of Life Event Stress among Suicidal Youth Subject to Cognitive Bias?


  • We thank Dr. Patricia Averill, Holly Casciani, Monique Fontes, Monica Garza, Kelly Green, Dr. Andrew Harper, Lindsey Monteith, Amber Paukert, Dr. Ann Saunders, and Ilya Yaroslavsky for their assistance with this project. This work was supported by a grant from the University of Houston.

Address correspondence to Chelsey M. Hartley, Department of Psychology, Florida International University, 11200 S.W. 8th St., Miami, FL 33199; E-mail:


Severity of depressive symptoms, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation were examined to determine whether they were significantly associated with the accuracy of suicidal adolescents' ratings of stressful life events. The sample included 130 inpatient adolescents who endorsed suicide-related behaviors. Stress interviews were administered, and the severity of stressful events was rated separately by adolescents and an independent team. A residualized cognitive bias score was created by regressing adolescents' severity ratings to the independent team's severity ratings of the same events. Depressive symptoms, but not hopelessness or suicidal ideation, were significantly associated with cognitive bias scores. A negative cognitive bias in adolescents' reports of life stress may be present at higher levels of depression relative to minimal levels of depression. Further research on the relations between stress and suicide-related behaviors is encouraged to include independent ratings of stress severity.