The Interpersonal Psychological Theory of Suicide (IPTS) provides a theoretical model of suicide behavior that explains the emergence of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt. Limited research has tested the IPTS with adolescents. The aim of the current study is to test the full IPTS model in a non-clinical community-based sample of adolescents.
Data for the current study are drawn from the pre-intervention survey of the school-based Sources of Strength Australia Project, which included 1,382 adolescents aged 12–17 years. Participants completed measures of perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness, capability for suicide (fearlessness about death), and suicidal ideation and behavior. The IPTS models were tested using hierarchical linear and logistic regression analyses.
Perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness, and their interaction, were significantly (p< 0.001) associated with higher levels of suicidal ideation in the past month. The three-way interaction of perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness and capability for suicide was not significantly associated with having had at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months (p= 0.052).
The data are cross-sectional and due to the low prevalence of suicide attempts in the sample, the study may be underpowered to fully test effects for suicidal behavior.
The results of the current study support the predictions of the IPTS in relation to suicidal ideation in adolescents. Given the clear associations between perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness with suicide risk in adolescents there may be value in targeting these factors in the assessment and prevention of suicide in this population.