239148 Latinas Tempting Suicide: Reasons and Meanings

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Luis H. Zayas, Ph D , George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Since 1991, national surveys have confirmed that Latina adolescents report the highest rates of suicide attempts of any ethnic and racial group of adolescents, regardless of gender. Missing, however, is knowledge of what distinguishes Latina attempters from non-attempters and what factors lead some to attempt suicide. This paper draws on a mixed-methods study of 122 Latina adolescents who attempted suicide and their parents, and 110 Latina adolescents without a history of attempts. Participants were recruited in a large Northeastern metropolis and self-identified as Hispanic, primarily Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Mexican, respectively, followed by Latinas from other groups. Participants were mostly U.S.-born, English-speaking girls with an average age of 15 attending 9th or 10th grade. Attempters and non-attempters shared many common demographic characteristics and came from the same communities, except that attempters were recruited from mental health facilities. Results show that on acculturation and familism the groups did not differ from each other but differed significantly from their parents. Further, attempters show higher levels of parent-adolescent conflict and internalizing and externalizing behaviors and lower self-esteem and levels of mentoring (affection, support, communication) and mutuality/reciprocity with their parents, particularly mothers. Interestingly, attempters and their mothers showed significantly greater discrepancies in perceptions of their relationships (mutuality, affection, communication, and support) than was evident between non-attempters and their mothers. Analyses indicate that a one-point increase on the measure of mutuality resulted in a 57% decrease in the likelihood of a suicide attempt. Our findings point to a convergence of the adolescents' developmental need for autonomy, family and parental factors, gender socialization, and traditional cultural forces in leading to the suicide attempt. Family-centered interventions appear to be optimal for preventing and intervening in such cases.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
To describe past epidemiologic and clinical research findings on suicide attempts by young Latinas in the U.S. To discuss recent findings from mixed-method research on the familial, cultural, developmental, and social factors in the suicide attempts of young Latinas. To differentiate the characteristics of Latinas who attempt suicide and those who do not.

Keywords: Adolescents, Latino Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the principal investigator on the grant that produced this report.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.