Suicidal Adolescents' Social Support from Family and Peers: Gender-Specific Associations with Psychopathology

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Abstract

Perceptions of social support from family, non-family adults, and peers were examined in relation to the psychopathology reported by 220 suicidal adolescents (152 females) during a psychiatric hospitalization. Results of regression analyses showed that, among females, family support was negatively related to hopelessness, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation. Among males, peer support was positively associated with depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. Across gender, more peer support was associated with more externalizing behavior problems; whereas, family support was negatively related to these problems and to alcohol/substance abuse. Paralleling normative findings, age was positively associated with peer support, and females perceived more peer support than did males. Findings extend previous research on social support to suicidal adolescents, and broaden the literature by examining extrafamilial support and a broader range of relevant psychopathology. That is, perceived social support relates to psychiatric impairment differentially by gender, and normative, age-related variations in perceptions of social support are detected even among highly impaired adolescents. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.

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