Category: Suicide and Self-Injury


Cultural Moderators of Risk for Suicidal Ideation and Behavior

Saturday, November 18
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom E, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Suicide | Cross Cultural / Cultural Differences
Presentation Type: Symposium

Research has continued to identify meaningful variations in risk factors and correlates of suicide across racial/ethnic minority groups, resulting in a need to consider how cultural attitudes and values influence risk (Chu, Goldblum, Floyd, & Bongar, 2010). The integrated motivational-volitional theory (IMV; O’Connor, 2011) offers a theoretical framework for conceptualizing suicide risk factors within an ideation to action model, but little is known about how this model operates in cross-cultural contexts. The current study aimed to examine how culture-specific experiences and values may act as motivational and volitional moderators of both suicidal ideation and behaviors within a sample of international college students.

Participants included 435 international students (60.6% Asian; 90% on F1 academic Visa) recruited through email solicitations and international student newsletter postings from two Midwestern and one Southern university. Participants completed an online survey assessing suicidal ideation, plans, and attempts along with measures of entrapment, cultural stress, cultural sanctions against suicide, and suicide preparatory behaviors (volition). A bootstrapping hierarchical linear regression using PROCESS (Hayes, 2012) was used to evaluate whether cultural stress moderated the association between entrapment and strength of suicidal ideation. The full model was significant, F (3, 400) = 20.38, p < .01, R2 = .15, with main effects for entrapment, t = 5.97, p < .01, and cultural stress, t = 2.88, p < .01. The interaction was not significant. To examine whether cultural sanctions moderated the relationship between strength of suicidal ideation and behaviors, a hierarchical binary logistic regression was conducted. The full model was significant, X2 (1) = 5.44, p < .01 and correctly classified 90.4% of participants. Cultural sanctions was a significant moderator between strength of suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior, b = .113, Wald = 5.71, p < .02, OR = 1.12. Participants who reported higher cultural sanctions against suicide were less likely to have engaged in suicidal behavior among those who reported moderate and high levels of suicidal ideation.

Results provide partial support for the applicability of IMV’s framework within a cross-cultural sample and suggest that there is a need to consider cultural attitudes towards suicide when conceptualizing risk. In addition, the experience of cultural stress may increase risk for experiencing suicidal ideation among international students.

Jennifer Muehlenkamp

Associate Professor of Psychology
University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire


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Cultural Moderators of Risk for Suicidal Ideation and Behavior

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