Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Gutierrez, Peter M.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


High school students--Suicidal behavior--Illinois; High school students--Religious life--Illinois; High school students--Psychological testing--Illinois


Using a path model initially developed and tested with college students, this study evaluated the manner in which negative life events (NLE), hopelessness, and depression served as predictors of suicide ideation in community adolescents. Since spirituality may play an important role in psychological well-being, the moderating effect of spirituality was also evaluated in this sample. High school students (n = 338) completed self-report questionnaires as part of a school-wide mental health screening. The variables were subjected to hierarchical regression analyses to construct two path models of risk for suicide ideation based on diathesis-stress theory. Multiple dimensions of spirituality were then evaluated as moderators of each pathway in the models. As expected, depression and hopelessness predicted suicide ideation, with depression serving as the stronger predictor. These variables also mediated the path between NLE and suicide ideation. Additionally, hopelessness partially mediated the relationship between NLE and depression, while depression fully mediated the path between NLE and hopelessness. These findings highlight the value of evaluating multidirectional pathways in accordance with existing theories. Only two dimensions of spirituality moderated risk. High existential well-being (EWB) buffered the impact of depressive symptoms on suicidal thoughts. Additionally, as NLE increased, the combined factor representing religious and spiritual identification (COS/REL) had a mild buffering effect on suicide ideation. Finally, EWB and COS/REL moderated the path between depression and hopelessness, with high EWB serving as the more substantial buffer of risk. In terms of the protective nature of spirituality, EWB—defined as one's perceived ability to competently cope with life difficulties—may have relevance in reducing psychological distress and enhancing mental well-being in teens. Religious and spiritual identification appear to have a positive, yet limited, effect on reducing risk during this developmental period. These results are tempered by several limitations pertaining to the measurement of spiritual constructs which may be addressed in future research.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [133]-150).


x, 170 pages




Northern Illinois University

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