Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 425–440 | Cite as

Familism, Parent-Adolescent Conflict, Self-Esteem, Internalizing Behaviors and Suicide Attempts Among Adolescent Latinas

  • Jill A. Kuhlberg
  • Juan B. Peña
  • Luis H. Zayas
Original Article


Adolescent Latinas continue to report higher levels of suicide attempts than their African-American and White peers. The phenomenon is still not understood and is theorized to be the result of the confluence of many cultural, familial, and individual level factors. In Latino cultures, belief in the importance of the family, the value known as familism, appears to protect youth’s emotional and behavioral health, but parent-adolescent conflict has been found to be a risk factor for suicide attempts. The role of familism in relation to parent-adolescent conflict, self-esteem, internalizing behaviors, and suicide attempts has not been studied extensively. To address this question, we interviewed 226 adolescent Latinas, 50% of whom had histories of suicide attempts. Using path analysis, familism as a cultural asset was associated with lower levels of parent-adolescent conflict, but higher levels of internalizing behaviors, while self-esteem and internalizing behaviors mediated the relationship between parent-adolescent conflict and suicide attempts. Our findings point to the importance of family involvement in culturally competent suicide prevention and intervention programs. Reducing parent-daughter conflict and fostering closer family ties has the added effect of improving self-esteem and shrinking the likelihood of suicide attempts.


Familism Parent adolescent conflict Internalizing behaviors Self-esteem Suicide attempts Adolescent Latinas 



Support for this paper was provided by grant R01 MH070689 from the National Institute of Mental Health to Luis H. Zayas. Additional support was provided by the Center for Latino Family Research. We extend our gratitude to the adolescent girls and their families who participated in this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jill A. Kuhlberg
    • 1
  • Juan B. Peña
    • 1
  • Luis H. Zayas
    • 1
  1. 1.George Warren Brown School of Social WorkWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

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