Category: Suicide and Self-Injury

PS4- #B49 - The Role of Future-Oriented Cognition and Impulsivity in Suicidal and Nonsuicidal Adolescents

Friday, Nov 17
12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Adolescents | Cognitive Processes | Suicide

Past research examining the etiology of suicidal behavior has indicated that future-oriented cognition, which is a mental representation of one’s personal future, is reduced in adults with a history of suicidal ideation and attempt (Williams et al., 1996; MacLeod et al., 2005; O’Connor et al., 2008). Studies also suggest that distinct alterations in the way time is integrated into impulsive decision-making in the brain may mark different cognitive pathways to suicidal behavior. Adolescence is a developmental period marked by increased impulsive decision-making. Emotion-relevant impulsivity, which consists of poor control over reactions following emotions, is a strong predictor of problem behaviors and suicidality in adolescence. The present study therefore aims to assess whether future-oriented cognition is related to emotion-relevant impulsivity in suicidal and nonsuicidal adolescents.
Preliminary analyses pertain to community-based adolescents (n=13, ages 12-18) were recruited for this study who completed key variables of interest. Five participants had a recent history of suicide ideation (SI group) and eight participants had no lifetime history of suicide ideation (NonSI group). Emotion-relevant impulsivity (specifically, positive and negative urgency) was assessed through the UPPS-P Impulsive Behavior Scale (Lynam et al., 2006), which was completed by the participant’s parent, and the participating adolescent completed a structured interview assessing suicidal thoughts and behavior in the past year. Participants also completed the Future-Thinking Task (FTT) (MacLeod et al., 1998): a measure of future-oriented cognition that provides overall positive and negative FTT index scores.

Preliminary results revealed that there were moderate-to-large group differences that were ultimately not significant regarding negative future thinking, t(11)=1.02, p=.33, =0.64, and positive future thinking, t(11)=0.97, p=.35, d=0.55. These patterns revealed that the NonSI group had better future-oriented cognition than the SI group. There was not a statistically significant difference in positive urgency between NonSI and SI adolescents, t(10)=0.25, p=.81, d=0.20, nor was there a significant difference in negative urgency between groups, t(10)=1.88, p=.09, d=1.10. Lack of significant findings is attributed to insufficient statistical power thus far, which continued data collection will resolve. Results thus far did not reveal significant correlations between future thinking and negative or positive urgency (rs=-.15-.32, ps=.33-.78). This ongoing study represents a step forward in identifying which cognitive factors may underlie impulsive decision-making and the mechanisms underpinning suicidal behaviors in adolescence.


Kayla DeFazio

MA student
Teachers College, Columbia University

Christine B. Cha

Teachers College, Columbia University