Bridging Disciplinary Boundaries (January 11 - 14, 2007)

Pacific O (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)

Exploring Risk and Resiliency Factors That Influence Suicidality among African American and Latino Youth in an Urban Setting: Findings from the CDC Youth Violence Survey

M. Daniel Bennett, PhD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Sean Joe, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Purpose On balance, prevention research involving young ethnic minority populations has focused primarily on interpersonal violence, particularly in regards to African American and Latino youth. Less attention has been devoted to the study of suicidality among these populations. In an effort to more thoroughly explore the risk and protective factors associated with suicidality, and to address certain limitations of the current state of research in this area, we report on the prevalence, possible predictors and potential buffers of suicidal behaviors in a sample of urban African American and Latino youth who participated in the 2004 CDC Youth Violence Survey (n=2626).

Methods The CDC Youth Violence Survey was administered to a census of public school students enrolled in grades 7, 9, and 11/12 in a school district in a high risk community in the northeastern region of the U.S. (Grades 11 and 12 were combined due to low enrollment in each of those grades)

Multigroup structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to test for possible differences in the relationship between depressive symptomatology and suicidality for African Americans (n=1119), Latinos (n=1514), African American males (n=540), African American females (n=576), Latino males (n=690), and Latino females (n=820). Exposure to violence and substance abuse were explored as potential mediators of this relationship. Parental support and social support were explored as potential moderators.

Results The prevalence of suicidality among the current study population was comparable to that found nationally in the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey data. Approximately 8% of African American study participants and 11% of Hispanic study participants reported some aspect of suicidality within the 12 months prior to administration of the survey.

The SEM generated to explore the influence of risk and protective factors on suicidality was well fitted to the data. (CFI = 1.000; RMSEA = .000). Depressive symptomatology was significantly related to suicidality. Substance abuse partially mediated the relationship between depressive symptomatology and suicidality. Exposure to violence influenced suicidality indirectly through its relationship to substance abuse. Parental support moderated the influence of depressive symptomatology. However, social support had no significant influence on suicidality. When the model was tested separately across groups, a number of relational differences were observed

Implications The findings of the current investigation suggest that challenges faced by African American and Latino youth may be unique to living in high risk urban environments. Recent studies suggest that chronic exposure to urban stressors, acculturation, and acculturative stress adversely affect the psychological well-being of many urban ethnic minority youth.

Suicide prevention and intervention efforts with African and Latino youth should focus on cultivating supportive networks across the family, school, and peer domains. These efforts could be further enhanced by community level prevention and intervention efforts aimed at reducing exposure to violence and substance abuse.

The current state of research on suicidality among African American and Latino youth highlights the need for cross cutting, multidisciplinary inquiries that focus on better understanding the complex interaction of suicidality, race, gender, and particular social, economic and environmental dynamics.