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Parental Validation and Aversive Self-Awareness as the Mechanisms of Change for Suicidal Adolescents

2013 Young Investigator Grant
Amount Awarded: $85,000
Focus Area: Psychosocial Studies

Molly Adrian, Ph.D.

Molly Adrian, Ph.D.
University of Washington

Mentor: Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., University of Washington

Inside the Research

Bio: Dr. Adrian received her doctorate at the University of Maine in 2009. She is currently the Acting Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the University of Washington.

Research Category: Psychosocial

Abstract: DBT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is a complex treatment shown to be helpful to adolescents with suicidal ideation and behavior. This study looks at changes in how parents and their suicidal teens relate so DBT can be streamlined for use by clinicians working with self‐injuring youth.

The relationship between parent and child is very important.  Children build their self-esteem when they feel understood, appreciated and validated by their parents and others. Most children can tolerate the ups and downs in their relationship with their parents and still maintain their feelings of worthiness.  It is thought that adolescents with suicidal ideation and behavior are not as able to maintain their feelings of worthiness when faced with the fluctuations in parental validation.   Instead, their feelings of self-hate or self-aversion awareness are increased, which may increase suicide risk.   It may be that one mechanism important in DBT is that adolescent’s self-aversive thoughts in response to parental validation become more flexible and less self-deprecating, and that changes in this relationship dynamic may lead to reduced suicide ideation and behavior.

This study capitalizes on the opportunity to collect data within the infrastructure of a larger study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.  The larger study compares DBT for adolescents with suicidal behavior with those being treated with combined individual and group supportive therapy (I/GST).  Dr. Adrian will work to determine if parental validation and adolescent self-aversion awareness are changed, and what part of DBT is helpful.

Impact:  Improved treatment of suicidal teens using Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).