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.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
American Association of Suicidology. (2014). Facts and statistics. Retrieved from http://www.suicidology.org/resources/facts-statistics.
Bolland, J. M. (2007). Overview of the mobile youth survey. Unpublished manuscript. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL.
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.
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.
Borowsky, I. W., Ireland, M., & Resnick, M. D. (2001). Adolescent suicide attempts: Risks and protectors. Pediatrics, 107, 485–493.
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.
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.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2015). Leading causes of death reports, national and regional, 1999–2015. Retrieved from http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/leadcaus10_us.html.
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.
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.
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/10.1037/0022-0618.104.22.168.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Goodenow, C. (1993b). The psychological sense of school membership among adolescents: Scale development and educational correlates. Psychology in the Schools, 30, 79–90.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Joiner, T. E. (2005). Why people die by suicide. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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.
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.
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.
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.
King, K. A. (2001). Developing a comprehensive school suicide prevention program. Journal of School Health, 71, 132–137.
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.
Mental Health America. (2015). Suicide. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/suicide.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Singer, J. D., & Willett, J. B. (2003). Applied longitudinal data analysis: Modeling change and event occurrence. New York, NY: Oxford.
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/10.1037/1045-3822.214.171.124.
The Parent Resource Program. (2016). Youth suicide statistics. Retrieved from http://jasonfoundation.com/prp/facts/youth-suicide-statistics/.
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.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2001). mental health: culture, race, and ethnicity—a 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.
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.
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.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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.
About this article
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
- School connectedness
- Suicide ideation
- Suicide attempts
- Impoverished neighborhoods
- Black American adolescents
- Joiner’s interpersonal theory of suicide