The present study compared the ability of two contemporary theories of suicidal behavior—the interpersonal and escape theories of suicide—to predict suicidal ideation. The interpersonal theory proposes that the interaction of perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness predicts suicidal ideation. The escape theory proposes that feelings of failure predict suicidal ideation and that escape motivation mediates this relationship. The present study intended to determine which of the two theories more successfully explains suicidal ideation.
A sample of 306 students from elite schools in Morocco (193 women, Mage = 21.21 years, predominantly Muslims) completed a questionnaire assessing feelings of failure and escape motivation, perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness, suicide ideation, and control variables.
In line with previous research, separate tests revealed support for the two theories. Interestingly, when entered simultaneously in a multiple regression analysis, the two frameworks explained a unique and cumulative part of the variance in suicidal ideation. Moreover, the effects remained significant after controlling for past suicide attempts, depression, hopelessness, and stress.
The findings suggest that combining the interpersonal and escape theories of suicide could help better explain the emergence of suicidal ideation among college students.