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Epidemiology of Suicidal Trajectories in Youth Transitioning to Adulthood

2014 Distinguished Investigator Grant
Amount Awarded: $98,331
Focus Area: Psychosocial Studies

Martie Thompson, Ph.D.
Clemson University

Inside the Research

Bio: Dr. Thompson received her Ph.D in Psychology from Georgia State University in 1995. She is currently Director of the Center for Research & Collaborative Activities at Clemson University, where she is also a Research Professor in Public Health Sciences, Clemson University. Since 2009, she has also served as the Associate Editor of the Journal of Family Psychology.

Research Category: Psychosocial risk

Abstract: Suicide remains a leading cause of death for youth and yet little is known about how suicide risk changes over the course of emerging adulthood. Identifying risk factors that predict the maintenance of suicide risk as well as protective factors that predict decreasing risk in a nationally representative sample will allow for targeted interventions that can decrease fatal and nonfatal self-directed injuries.

In order to understand and better predict risk among developing youth we must better understand what maintains—or decreases—suicidal risk as youth transition into emerging adulthood. Dr. Thompson’s study will include 20,745 youth from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health data and will use restricted data to assess what puts youth  more at risk for suicidal ideation as they transition into adulthood, and also what protective factors decrease suicidal ideation. It is hypothesized that some youth initially at high risk will decrease in risk status as they mature, yet some youth will maintain high-risk status. The study will set out to examine whether certain intrapersonal, social/situational, and cultural/environmental risk and protective factors can be used to predict individuals’ likely trajectory, thereby providing a basis for targeted prevention programming. Youth will be between the ages of 12-17 years at Time 1 and between the ages of 25-32 years at Time 4. State-of-the-art statistical procedures for testing the study aims will entail latent growth mixture modeling and multinomial logistic regression analysis. The study will help to identify risk factors that predict maintenance of suicide risk and protective factors that predict reduction in risk as youth transition into adulthood.

Impact: Prediction of youths’ likely suicide risk trajectory will inform programming for prevention efforts.

Research Connection

Click here to read Dr. Thompson's Research Connection.