Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Gutierrez, Peter M.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Suicide--Risk factors--Illinois; Suicidal behavior--Risk factors--Illinois; College students--Illinois--Psychology


Exposure to peer suicide among young people has been identified as a potential risk factor for suicide-related behavior, but it has also been the subject of conflicting research and is not well understood. The purpose of the present study was to examine the relationship between exposure to peer suicide in college students and subsequent risk for suicide-related behavior and depression. The association between the level of closeness to the suicide victim and subsequent risk for suicide-related behavior and depression was also examined. Social support and current life stress were investigated as two potential moderating factors. Three hundred seventy college undergraduate students who were recruited from Introductory Psychology courses at Northern Illinois University participated in this study. After those who had been exposed to non-peer or non-recent peer suicides (n = 67), those with invalid protocols resulting from failure to complete one or more measures (n = 29), and those who were not between the ages of 18 and 20 (n = 14) were deleted from the sample, a total sample of 260 remained. Of these participants, 50 had been recently exposed to the suicide of a peer, as defined by the study criteria. Participants completed a Demographic Questionnaire, an Exposure Questionnaire to determine exposure status, the Peer Relationship Scale to determine relationship between survivor and victim, and the College Student Social Support Scale and Life Experiences Survey as measures of the moderating variables and the Adult Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire, Beck Hopelessness Scale, Reasons for Living Inventory for Young Adults, Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire, and Beck Depression Inventory-Second Edition as the dependent measures. The findings suggest that exposure is associated with increased suicidal ideation and behavior, as well as depressive symptomatology, but only when survivors have high levels of concurrent or subsequent life stress. These results lend support to a diathesis-stress conceptualization of the relationship between exposure and risk. Closeness to the suicide victim was not a significant predictor of suicide risk or depressive symptoms. Based on the present results, it appears that the discrepancies in the literature may have been due to the presence of the unrecognized moderating variable of life stress.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [132]-146).


x, 188 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type