Evaluating the Interpersonal–Psychological Theory of Suicide Among Latina Adolescents Using Qualitative Comparative Analysis

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The interpersonal–psychological theory of suicide (IPTS) has emerged as an empirically supported theory of suicide risk, yet few studies have used IPTS to examine the suicidal behaviors of Latina adolescents. In this study, we explore the cultural and developmental appropriateness, as well as the explanatory fit, of IPTS within a sample of Latina adolescents. Data for this project were drawn from qualitative interviews conducted with Latina adolescents with (n = 30) and without (n = 30) histories of attempted suicide. We employed a deductive qualitative approach to define and compare core constructs of IPTS (perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness, and acquired capability), and then use qualitative comparative analysis to evaluate how core constructs were linked with the occurrence of a suicide attempt. Consistent with IPTS, perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness, and acquired capability were present in 20 of the 30 adolescents who had attempted suicide, and absent in 22 of the 30 adolescents with no lifetime history of suicidal behaviors. Notably, alternative combinations of IPTS constructs were found in 10 cases of adolescents who attempted suicide, suggesting a need to adjust IPTS to fit the developmental and cultural contexts of Latina teens. Although our results suggest predominantly positive support for IPTS, participants varied in terms of how their experiences resonated with the conceptual definitions put forward by the theory. Ultimately, our findings point to the ways in which developmental tensions are exacerbated by broader sociocultural dynamics, contributing to a broader understanding of suicide risk among ethnic minority adolescents.

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