Skip to main content

Suicidality in Black American Youth Living in Impoverished Neighborhoods: Is School Connectedness a Protective Factor?

Abstract

Suicidality is a significant public health issue for adolescents (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Leading causes of death reports, national and regional, 1999–2015, 2015). Cultural factors such as gender, race, and poverty may place some adolescents at an increased risk for suicidality. The school context has been offered as a setting that may serve as an effective prevention and intervention point for buffering suicidality. Given that adolescents spend a significant amount of time at school, school connectedness, or the sense of belonging to a school community, may be a significant and positive protective factor against social isolation. Undergirded by Joiner’s (Why people die by suicide, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2005; The interpersonal-psychological theory of suicidal behavior: current empirical status, 2009) interpersonal theory of suicide, the current investigation explores the relation between suicidality (i.e., suicide ideations and attempts) and school connectedness. Using a large longitudinal data set (N = 2335), results of two logistic growth models found that school connectedness serves as a strong protective factor for suicidality among Black American adolescents living in impoverished neighborhoods. Results showed that school connectedness reduced the probability of suicide ideations and attempts over time and for both females and males. Implications for theory, practice, and research are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  1. American Association of Suicidology. (2014). Facts and statistics. Retrieved from http://www.suicidology.org/resources/facts-statistics.

  2. Bolland, J. M. (2007). Overview of the mobile youth survey. Unpublished manuscript. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL.

  3. Bolland, J. M., Lian, B. E., & Formichella, C. M. (2005). The origins of hopelessness among inner-city African-American adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 36, 293–305. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-005-8627-x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Bolland, K. A., Bolland, J. M., Tomek, S., Deveraux, R., Mrug, S., & Wimberly, J. (2013). Trajectories of adolescent alcohol use by gender and early initiation status. Youth & Society, 48, 3–32. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X13475639.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Borowsky, I. W., Ireland, M., & Resnick, M. D. (2001). Adolescent suicide attempts: Risks and protectors. Pediatrics, 107, 485–493.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Brent, D., Greenhill, L., Compton, S., Emslie, G., Wells, K., Walkup, J., et al. (2009). The treatment of adolescent suicide attempters (TASA) study: Predictors of suicidal events in an open treatment trial. Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 48, 967–996. https://doi.org/10.1097/CHI.0b013e3181b5dbe4.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Buchman-Schmitt, J. M., Chiurliza, B., Chu, C., Michaels, M. S., & Joiner, T. E. (2014). Suicidality in adolescent populations: A review of the extant literature through the lens of the interpersonal theory of suicide. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation & Therapy, 9, 26–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2015). Leading causes of death reports, national and regional, 19992015. Retrieved from http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/leadcaus10_us.html.

  9. Cole, D. A., Ciesla, J. A., Dallaire, D. H., Jacquez, F. M., Pineda, A. Q., LaGrange, B., et al. (2008). Emergence of attributional style and its relation to depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 117, 16–31. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.117.1.16.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Dupéré, V., Leventhal, T., & Lacourse, E. (2009). Neighborhood poverty and suicidal thoughts and attempts in late adolescence. Psychological Medicine, 39, 1295–1306. https://doi.org/10.1017/S003329170800456X.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Furrer, C., & Skinner, E. (2003). Sense of relatedness as a factor in children’s academic engagement and performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 148–162. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.95.1.148.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Garlow, S. J., Purselle, D. V., & Heninger, M. (2005). Ethnic differences in patterns of suicide across the life cycle. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162, 319–323. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.162.2.319.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Garlow, S. J., Rosenberg, J., Moore, D., Haas, A. P., Koestner, B., Hendin, H., et al. (2008). Depression, desperation, and suicidal ideation in college students: Results from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention college screening project at Emory University. Depression and Anxiety, 25, 482–488. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.20321.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Goldston, D. B., Molock, S. D., Whitbeck, L. B., Murakami, J. L., Zayas, L. H., & Nagayama Hall, G. C. (2008). Cultural considerations in adolescent suicide prevention and psychosocial treatment. American Psychologist, 63, 14–31. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.63.1.14.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. Goodenow, C. (1993a). Classroom belonging among early adolescent students: Relationships to motivation and achievement. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 13, 21–43. https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431693013001002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Goodenow, C. (1993b). The psychological sense of school membership among adolescents: Scale development and educational correlates. Psychology in the Schools, 30, 79–90.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Gould, M. S., Greenberg, T., Velting, D. M., & Shaffer, D. (2003). Youth suicide risk and preventive interventions: A review of the past 10 years. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 42, 386–405. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.CHI.0000046821.95464.CF.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. Hill, R. M., & Pettit, J. W. (2016). Pilot randomized controlled trial of LEAP: A selective preventive intervention to reduce adolescents’ perceived burdensomeness. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2016.1188705.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Joe, S., Baser, R. S., Neighbors, H. W., Caldwell, C. H., & Jackson, J. S. (2009). 12-month and lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts among black adolescents in the National Survey of American Life. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 48, 271–282. https://doi.org/10.1097/CHI.0b013e318195bccf.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  20. Joe, S., Clarke, J., Ivey, A. Z., Kerr, D., & King, C. A. (2007). Impact of familial factors and psychopathology on suicidality among African American adolescents. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 15, 199–218. https://doi.org/10.1300/J137v15n02_12.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  21. Joiner, T. E. (2005). Why people die by suicide. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Joiner, T. E. (2009). The interpersonal-psychological theory of suicidal behavior: Current empirical status. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2009/06/sci-brief.aspx.

  23. Joiner, T. E., Hollar, D., & Orden, K. V. (2006). On buckeyes, gators, super bowl Sunday, and the miracle on ice: “Pulling together” is associated with lower suicide rates. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 25, 179–195. https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2006.25.2.179.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Kidd, S., Henrich, C. C., Brookmeyer, K. A., Davidson, L., King, R. A., & Shahar, G. (2006). The social context of adolescent suicide attempts: Interactive effects of parent, peer, and school social relations. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 36, 386–395. https://doi.org/10.1521/suli.2006.36.4.386.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Kim, J. L., Kim, J. M., Choi, Y., Lee, T. H., & Park, E. C. (2016). Effect of socioeconomic status on the linkage between suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 46, 588–597. https://doi.org/10.1111/sltb.12242.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. King, K. A. (2001). Developing a comprehensive school suicide prevention program. Journal of School Health, 71, 132–137.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Marraccini, M. E., & Brier, Z. M. (2017). School connectedness and suicidal thoughts and behaviors: A systematic meta-analysis. School Psychology Quarterly, 32, 5–21. https://doi.org/10.1037/spq0000192.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Mental Health America. (2015). Suicide. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/suicide.

  29. Molock, S. D., Puri, R., Matlin, S., & Barksdale, C. (2006). Relationship between religious coping and suicidal behaviors among African American adolescents. Journal of Black Psychology, 32, 366–389. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095798406290466.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  30. Nock, M. K., Green, J. G., Hwang, I., McLaughlin, K. A., Sampson, N. A., Zaslavsky, A. M., et al. (2013). Prevalence, correlates, and treatment of lifetime suicidal behavior among adolescents: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement. Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, 70, 300–310. https://doi.org/10.1001/2013.jamapsychiatry.55.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Oldfield, J., Humphrey, N., & Hebron, J. (2016). The role of parental and peer attachment relationships and school connectedness in predicting adolescent mental health outcomes. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 21, 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1111/camh.12108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Robinson, W. L., Droege, J. R., Hipwell, A. E., Stepp, S. D., & Keenan, K. (2016). Brief report: Suicidal ideation in adolescent girls: Impact of race. Journal of Adolescence, 53, 16–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.08.013.

    Article  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  33. Robinson, J. P., Shaver, P. R., & Wrightsman, L. S. (1991). Criteria for scale selection and evaluation. Measures of personality and social psychological attitudes, 1(3), 1–16.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Shochet, I. M., Homel, R., Cockshaw, W. D., & Montgomery, D. T. (2008). How do school connectedness and attachment to parents interrelate in predicting adolescent depressive symptoms? Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 37, 676–681. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374410802148053.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Singer, J. D., & Willett, J. B. (2003). Applied longitudinal data analysis: Modeling change and event occurrence. New York, NY: Oxford.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  36. Suldo, S. M., Shaffer, E. J., & Riley, K. M. (2008). A social-cognitive-behavioral model of academic predictors of adolescents’ life satisfaction. School Psychology Quarterly, 23, 56–69. https://doi.org/10.1037/1045-3830.23.1.56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. The Parent Resource Program. (2016). Youth suicide statistics. Retrieved from http://jasonfoundation.com/prp/facts/youth-suicide-statistics/.

  38. U.S. Census Bureau (2014). FFF: Black (African-American) History Month: February 2016. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2016/cb16-ff01.html.

  39. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2001). mental health: culture, race, and ethnicitya supplement to mental health: A report of the surgeon general. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services.

  40. Van Ryzin, M., Gravely, A., & Roseth, C. (2009). Autonomy, belongingness, and engagement in school as contributors to adolescent psychological well-being. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-007-9257-4.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Young, R., Sweeting, H., & Ellaway, A. (2011). Do schools differ in suicide risk? The influence of school and neighbourhood on attempted suicide, suicidal ideation and self-harm among secondary school pupils. BMC Public Health, 11, 874–889. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-11-874.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sara Tomek.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

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

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Tomek, S., Burton, S., Hooper, L.M. et al. Suicidality in Black American Youth Living in Impoverished Neighborhoods: Is School Connectedness a Protective Factor?. School Mental Health 10, 1–11 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12310-017-9241-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • School connectedness
  • Suicide ideation
  • Suicide attempts
  • Impoverished neighborhoods
  • Black American adolescents
  • Joiner’s interpersonal theory of suicide