Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 99–110 | Cite as

Suicidal Adolescents' Social Support from Family and Peers: Gender-Specific Associations with Psychopathology

  • David C. R. Kerr
  • Lesli J. Preuss
  • Cheryl A. KingEmail author

Perceptions of social support from family, non-family adults, and peers were examined in relation to the psychopathology reported by 220 suicidal adolescents (152 females) during a psychiatric hospitalization. Results of regression analyses showed that, among females, family support was negatively related to hopelessness, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation. Among males, peer support was positively associated with depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. Across gender, more peer support was associated with more externalizing behavior problems; whereas, family support was negatively related to these problems and to alcohol/substance abuse. Paralleling normative findings, age was positively associated with peer support, and females perceived more peer support than did males. Findings extend previous research on social support to suicidal adolescents, and broaden the literature by examining extrafamilial support and a broader range of relevant psychopathology. That is, perceived social support relates to psychiatric impairment differentially by gender, and normative, age-related variations in perceptions of social support are detected even among highly impaired adolescents. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.

suicide social support adolescence depression gender differences 



This research was supported by Ronald McDonald House Charities and a Student Award Program grant to the first author from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. The authors wish to thank Sanjeev Venkataraman, MD, for administrative support; Anne Kramer, MSW, ACSW, for project coordination; Jason Washburn, Ph.D., Carrie Hatcher-Kay, Ph.D., Neshe Sarkozy, and Jordana Ostro for data assistance. We also thank participating adolescents and their families, independent evaluators, and the inpatient staff at participating psychiatric hospitals.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • David C. R. Kerr
    • 1
  • Lesli J. Preuss
    • 2
  • Cheryl A. King
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.New York State Psychiatric InstituteNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Departments of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry, Child & Adolescent DivisionUniversity of Michigan Health SystemAnn ArborUSA

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