Rates of suicide attempts among Hispanic adolescent females (one in five) are higher than for their non- Hispanic counterparts (one in ten), yet little is known about Hispanics' attempts, their antecedents, and why Hispanic girls are more likely than other girls to attempt suicide. Although theoretical and clinical formulations about the reasons for this phenomenon have appeared in the literature, these ideas have not been subjected to empirical scrutiny. Using qualitative methods supplemented by quantitative measures, the proposed project will examine the phenomenon using a conceptual framework that encompasses ecological-developmental systems theory. The study will (1) explore the phenomenology of the suicide attempts from the girls' perspective (e.g., antecedent distress, crisis events, subjective experience); (2) explore parents' understandings of their daughters' suicide attempts (including their hypotheses about preceding crisis events and daughters' motivations); and (3) examine the familial, developmental, and sociocultural experiences that distinguish adolescent Latina attempters and their parents from non-attempters and their parents. One hundred adolescent Latinas who have attempted suicide will be recruited to complete questionnaires. We will also interview parents to get multiple informant perspectives on the suicide attempts. To insure that the factors we explore and identify are indeed unique to attempters rather than simply representing aspects shared by most Hispanic girls and families, we will also interview a matched group of 100 Hispanic nonattempters and their parents. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews will be conducted to explore psychological, family and social experiences preceding suicide attempts; why the attempts become the chosen response; and how the attempts are understood or interpreted by the girls. Objective measures of the sociocultural and familial factors posited in the conceptual model will enrich the qualitative data. This emic, intra-ethnic approach can help explain why some Hispanic teenage girls attempt suicide and others do not, and shed light on the interaction of cultural factors with other factors believed to influence suicide attempts. Key research goals are to determine if, and how, the explanatory factors hypothesized in the literature play a role in the attempts, and to invite the emergence of factors not considered previously.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Psychosocial Development, Risk and Prevention Study Section (PDRP)
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Avenevoli, Shelli A
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Washington University
Schools of Social Work
Saint Louis
United States
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Hausmann-Stabile, Carolina; Gulbas, Lauren; Zayas, Luis H (2018) Treatment Narratives of Suicidal Latina Teens. Arch Suicide Res 22:165-172
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Peña, Juan B; Kuhlberg, Jill A; Zayas, Luis H et al. (2011) Familism, family environment, and suicide attempts among Latina youth. Suicide Life Threat Behav 41:330-41

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