Exposure to suicidal behaviors: A common suicide risk factor or a personal negative life event?

Keith M. Harris, Silvana Bettiol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Numerous suicide risk factors have been proposed but not adequately validated for epidemiology, treatment and prevention efforts. Aims: Exposures to suicidal behaviors (ESB), from family and friend suicide attempts and completions, were tested for validity as a suicidal risk factor and also for measurement and construct adequacy. Methods: An anonymous online survey yielded 713 participants (aged 18-71), who reported ESB, completed the Suicidal Affect-Behavior-Cognition Scale (SABCS), and comprised a broad spectrum on those variables. Results: Tests of dimensionality and internal consistency showed the four ESB variables (attempts/completions through family/friends) were independent and did not form a common factor or an identifiable ESB latent trait. ESB variables were, however, associated with demographic and psychiatric histories. A battery of tests revealed no meaningful associations between ESB and total suicidality or suicide risk factors (social support, depression, anxiety, stress, satisfaction with life and emotional stability). In addition, in contrast to previous reports, young adults (n = 200; aged 18-20) showed no increased suicidality due to ESB. Conclusion: Results showed no validity for ESB as a common risk factor for suicidality or other psychopathology, or as a latent trait. ESB showed evidence as a personal negative life event with individual effects and interpretations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-77
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Issue number1
Early online date01 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2017


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