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Social context and change in suicide ideation in a community sample of youths



Adolescent suicide ideation (SI) often portends more grievous suicidal behavior; yet, long-term studies of what risk factors predict SI are limited. We employ a multi-wave longitudinal design to investigate the impact of earlier social contexts on change in SI.


A community sample of 748 youths drawn from the Children in the Community (CIC) study was first assessed with the CIC Youth SI Scale at mean age 13.7 (range 9–18) (baseline) and in two follow-ups over 10 years. GEE Poisson Regression was used to estimate SI between ages 10 and 25 (intercept set at age midpoint of 17), and to examine associations between baseline measures of parent, peer, and school social contexts and subsequent change in SI. Analyses were controlled for demographic characteristics and known risks for SI: sexual or physical abuse before age 18 (obtained by official reports) and major depressive disorder (MDD, diagnosed by psychiatric interview at baseline and follow-ups).


SI declined significantly by age 17 with greater mother affection (β = − 0.091, SE = 0.037), peer friendship quality (β = − 0.115, SE = 0.034), peer social support (β = − 0.116, SE = 0.042), and school engagement (β = − 0.083, SE = 0.045, trend), but increased significantly with more parent punishment (β = 0.143, SE = 0.045) and school conflict (β = 0.168, SE = 0.042). SI associations with sexual or physical abuse (β = 0.299, SE = 0.137) and MDD (β = 0.777, SE = 0.130) were independent of other effects.


Earlier social contexts influence change in SI independent of each other and of known risks for SI in community youths, and may be a resource for intervention efforts to deter future SI.

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This research was supported by a grant to Dr. Kasen by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (Project 1007504 [2009–2010]). The data analyzed come from the Children in the Community (CIC) study, Principal Investigator, Dr. Patricia Cohen. The CIC study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health through Grants R01 MH36971 (1983–1985), R01 MH38916 (1985–1988), R01 MH49191 (1992–1995), and R01 MH60911 (2000–2010), with supplemental grant support from the National Institute for Justice through Grant IJCX0029 (1999–2001). Dr. Kasen had full access to all study data and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and accuracy of the data analysis.

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Correspondence to Stephanie Kasen.

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Kasen, S., Chen, H. Social context and change in suicide ideation in a community sample of youths. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 55, 319–327 (2020).

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  • Suicide ideation
  • Social context
  • Community sample
  • Adolescents
  • Longitudinal