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An Assessment of the Role of Parental Incarceration and Substance Misuse in Suicidal Planning of African American Youth and Young Adults


Suicide rates among youth are increasing, and African American youth are becoming the most likely group to die by suicide in the USA. We utilized ecodevelopmental theory to investigate the relationship between parental incarceration and substance misuse and their association with suicidal planning in a sample of African American youth and young adults. Participants consisted of 190 African American youth and young adults living in public housing in a mid-Atlantic city in the USA who completed a youth health-risk behavior measure, and parental incarceration and substance misuse measures. Findings indicate males were significantly more likely than females to have devised a plan to die by suicide, especially if their mothers were incarcerated or their fathers had an alcohol problem. The findings of this study suggest several implications for health prevention and intervention efforts to reduce suicide-related risks among African American youth and young adults, including strategies that promote family-centered, evidence-based interventions that are culturally tailored to provide further insight into the best practices in suicide prevention.

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The data and materials for this study support our empirical claims and comply with field standards.


All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Data collection for the parent study and analysis were performed by Von Nebbitt and Taqi Tirmazi. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Camille R. Quinn, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Camille R. Quinn.

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Quinn, C.R., Beer, O.W.J., Boyd, D.T. et al. An Assessment of the Role of Parental Incarceration and Substance Misuse in Suicidal Planning of African American Youth and Young Adults. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities (2021).

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  • African American youth and young adults
  • Suicide
  • Mental health
  • Public housing