Communications Project

Document Type:Master's Thesis
Name:Christianne Lee Esposito
Title:Linking Childhood Abuse to Suicidal Behavior: An Examination of the Mediating Variables
Degree:Master of Science
Department:Clinical Psychology
Committee Chair: George A. Clum, Ph.D.
Chair's email:GACLUM@VT.EDU
Committee Members:JACK W. FINNEY
Date of defense:OCTOBER 22, 1997
Availability:Release the entire work for Virginia Tech access only.
After one year release worldwide only with written permission of the student and the advisory committee chair.


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 1 * 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 appraisal.

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