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The Relationship Between Exposure to Adolescent Suicide and Subsequent Suicide Risk

Authors

  • Robin L. Watkins MA,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
      Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115–2892; E-mail: rwatkin1@niu.edu.
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  • Peter M. Gutierrez PhD

    1. Department of Psychology at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
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  • The authors would like to thank Dr. Michelle Demaray and Dr. Gregory Waas for their helpful contributions to this research project and manuscript.

Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115–2892; E-mail: rwatkin1@niu.edu.

Abstract

In this study we examined the relationship between the exposure of adolescents to the suicide of a peer and subsequent suicide risk. Two hundred sixty-eight high school students filled out self-report questionnaires assessing demographic information, exposure to the suicide of a peer, relationship between survivor and suicide victim, and four measures of suicide risk (suicidal ideation, past and present suicide-related behavior, depressive symptomatology, and reasons for living). The 27 individuals who had been exposed to the suicide of a peer were classified as friends or acquaintances of suicide victims. Twenty-seven controls were then matched on gender, age, and ethnicity. The results of this study failed to support any of the hypothesized differences between exposed and unexposed adolescents of differing relationship categories on measures of suicide risk or depressive symptomatology. Three possible explanations for the results are evaluated and discussed within a conceptual framework.

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