Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 871–883 | Cite as

Social Anxiety Symptoms and Suicidal Ideation in a Clinical Sample of Early Adolescents: Examining Loneliness and Social Support as Longitudinal Mediators

  • Michelle GallagherEmail author
  • Mitchell J. Prinstein
  • Valerie Simon
  • Anthony Spirito


Recent research has shown that social anxiety may be related to increased risk for suicidal ideation in teens, although this research largely has been cross-sectional and has not examined potential mediators of this relationship. A clinical sample of 144 early adolescents (72 % female; 12–15 years old) was assessed during psychiatric inpatient hospitalization and followed up at 9 and 18 months post-baseline. Symptoms of social anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, loneliness, and perceived social support were assessed via structured interviews and self-report instruments. Structural equation modeling revealed a significant direct relationship between social anxiety symptoms at baseline and suicidal ideation at 18 months post-baseline, even after controlling for baseline depressive symptoms and ideation. A second multiple mediation model revealed that baseline social anxiety had a significant indirect effect on suicidal ideation at 18 months post-baseline through loneliness at 9 months post-baseline. Social anxiety did not have a significant indirect effect on suicidal ideation through perceived social support from either parents or close friends. Findings suggest that loneliness may be particularly implicated in the relationship between social anxiety and suicidality in teens. Clinicians should assess and address feelings of loneliness when treating socially anxious adolescents.


Adolescents Social anxiety Suicidal ideation Loneliness Social support 



This work was supported in part by the National Institute of Mental Health grants R01-MH59766 and R01-MH85505 awarded to Mitchell J. Prinstein.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle Gallagher
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mitchell J. Prinstein
    • 1
  • Valerie Simon
    • 2
  • Anthony Spirito
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Wayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  3. 3.Warren Alpert Medical SchoolBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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