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An Exploratory Analysis of Predictors of Youth Suicide-Related Behaviors in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Implications for Prevention Science


Although autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is associated with significant mental health concerns, little is known about suicidality, particularly among youth. To address this critical gap in the literature, the current study examined the predictive validity of (1) demographics, (2) core autism symptoms, (3) cognitive abilities and adaptive behavior, (4) comorbid psychopathology, and (5) medical problems, for suicide-related behaviors among autistic youth (N = 481; Mage = 11.56 years). As indices of suicide-related behaviors, parents reported on whether the child had ever (1) talked about killing themselves, and (2) engaged in deliberate self-harm or attempted suicide. These two suicide-related outcomes had distinct clinical correlates, including child age, parental education, restricted and repetitive behaviors, IQ and adaptive behavior, affective and conduct problems, and medical concerns.

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We are very grateful to the families, participants, and clinicians who made this study possible as part of the Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders Network.


This study has no funding to report, and was completed as part of the larger Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders (POND Network).

Author information

CGM conceived and drafted the manuscript and performed statistical analyses. EAD wrote part of the manuscript and assisted with analyses. EA, RN, EK, SG, XL, and RAS participated in the design and coordination of the study. EPH, EK, and RAS assisted with preparation of the draft. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Correspondence to Christina G. McDonnell.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all caregivers who participated in the study.

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McDonnell, C.G., DeLucia, E.A., Hayden, E.P. et al. An Exploratory Analysis of Predictors of Youth Suicide-Related Behaviors in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Implications for Prevention Science. J Autism Dev Disord (2019).

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  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Suicidality
  • Psychopathology
  • Prevention