Document Type

Honors Project

Publication Date



Suicide is a leading cause of death among adolescents (CDC, 2019), but researchers struggle with predicting which adolescents will die by suicide.The Interpersonal Psychological Theory of Suicide (Joiner, 2005) predicts differences between those who desire suicide from those with serious suicidal behavior. This theory has not been extensively tested among adolescents. The present study aims to directly test the theory’s predictions both concurrently and prospectively among community adolescents. Adolescents (N = 4,919, Mage = 15.59, 49.8% female) participated in a school-based mental health screen and completed questionnaires regarding key theory constructs, nonsuicidal self-injury, and suicidal behaviors. A subsample (N = 605, Mage = 15.45, 49.8% female) was screened again one year later. Findings partially support the theory. Concurrent analyses revealed that perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness were associated with both passive suicidal ideation and past suicide attempt. Nonsuicidal self-injury was associated with a previous attempt. None of the constructs from the theory predicted behavior prospectively, suggesting that the theory may be better in predicting concurrent behavior among community adolescents. Assessment of theory constructs may be useful in determining risk, but further prospective tests of the theory should be considered.

Level of Honors

magna cum laude




Lori Hilt