Title page for ETD etd-11797-132113

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Esposito, Christianne Lee
Author's Email Address christianne.esposito@brown.edu
URN etd-11797-132113
Title Linking Childhood Abuse to Suicidal Behavior: An Examination of the Mediating Variables
Degree Master of Science
Department Clinical Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Clum, George A. Jr. Committee Chair
Finney, Jack W. Committee Member
Jones, Russell T. Committee Member
Date of Defense 1997-10-22
Availability unrestricted
Previous research has suggested that a strong relationship

exists between early childhood abuse and later suicidal

behavior. However, the process through which an abused

child becomes suicidal in adolescence has not been examined.

The present study attempted to identify a pathway in a

sample of juvenile delinquents because they have been

shown to be at an increased risk for suicide when compared

to the general population. It was initially hypothesized

that the use of avoidant coping strategies; a self-deprecatory

attributional style; poor perceived social support; poor

problem-solving appraisal; depression; hopelessness; and

low self-esteem would be associated with suicidal ideation,

subsequent to childhood abuse. However, this theory could

not be examined due to methodological weaknesses encountered

in the study. A similar yet more parsimonious theory was

then devised, prior to analyses, based on links found in

previous research between the variables that could be

examined. It was hypothesized that childhood abuse and

low social support would be related to later suicidal

ideation via poor problem-solving appraisal and psychopathology

in the form of depression, hopelessness, and low self-esteem.

Different variations of this mediational theory were

examined through the use of structural equation models.

The sample employed in this study included two hundred

adolescents incarcerated at juvenile detention centers in

Virginia. All participants voluntarily completed 11

self-report measures which took approximately 1½ to 2 hours,

while seated in their classroom at the juvenile detention

center. The findings from the present study suggest that

the relationship between childhood abuse and low social

support, and suicidal ideation, is mediated by

psychopathology and to a lesser extent, poor problem-solving


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