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Risk and Protective Factors of Suicidal Ideation among Asian American Adolescents in the United States Open Access

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Suicide is a serious concern among Asian American adolescents. It was the leading cause of death among Asian males ages 14-18 in 2015, and it was the second leading cause of death among Asian females in this age group. Given that Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial/ethnic community in the United States (U.S.) and that risk and protective factors for suicidal behaviors differ among diverse ethnic youths, there is a need to identify a culturally relevant suicide theory to better understand risk and protective factors of suicidal ideation among Asian American adolescents. This study integrated Joiner’s (2005) interpersonal theory of suicide and Abramson and colleagues’ (2002) hopelessness theory of suicide to examine whether perceived burdensomeness would mediate an association between negative cognitive style and suicidal ideation. Furthermore, it examined whether self-efficacy, general belongingness, and ethnic group belongingness would be protective against suicidal ideation. In this study, 208 Asian American adolescents (8 – 12th graders), recruited from both community organization/events and Qualtrics Panels, completed the survey. Based on the results, perceived burdensomeness fully mediated the association between negative cognitive style and suicidal ideation, and the strength of its mediating effect depended on levels of self-efficacy and general belongingness. Specifically, high levels of self-efficacy and general belongingness buffered the effects of risk factors on suicidal ideation. Unexpectedly, there was no association between ethnic belongingness and suicidal ideation. The findings suggest the importance of 1) examining both risk and protective factors in suicide risk assessment in Asian American adolescents, 2) helping youth promote their sense of self-efficacy to prevent suicide specific negative attributions, and 3) increasing youths’ sense of general belongingness in the context of high levels of perceived burdensomeness to prevent suicide.

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