Understanding grief reactions, thwarted belongingness, and suicide ideation in bereaved adolescents: Toward a unifying theory


Ryan M. Hill, Julie B. Kaplow, Benjamin Oosterhoff, Christopher M. Layne


Journal of Clinical Psychology


OBJECTIVE: Childhood bereavement is linked to suicide-related behaviors in adolescence and adulthood, but candidate mechanisms through which bereavement may lead to suicide-related behaviors have not been explored. One candidate pathway is that grief reaction arising from bereavement lead to increased perceived burdensomeness and/or thwarted belongingness, resulting in increased suicide ideation. This cross-sectional study of bereaved adolescents explored indirect effects between grief reactions as distal predictors, perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness as proximal predictors, and suicide ideation. METHOD: Participants were 58 bereaved youth, 12-17 years of age (mean=14.21, SD=1.65; 81.0% female; 51.7% Hispanic, 17.2% African American, and 22.4% Caucasian), and their parents/guardians seeking services at a trauma and grief specialty outpatient clinic. RESULTS: The indirect effect of grief reactions on suicide ideation via thwarted belongingness, but not perceived burdensomeness, was statistically significant. CONCLUSIONS: Clinicians may wish to consider signs of thwarted belongingness as possible indicators of suicide risk among bereaved youth.



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