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MCAT

Unit 4: Lesson 1

Foundations of behavior passages

Are suicidal behaviors "contagious" in adolescence?

Problem

Social scientists have sought explanations for varying rates of suicide among different populations. In addition to the effects of an individual’s emotions and motives that have been found in some studies, suicides were also associated with a lack of social connections and social integration. In other words, researchers argue that strong social support protects individuals from suicide. In a recent study, researchers set out to examine whether strong social relationships might actually have the opposite effect and have the potential to increase a person’s vulnerability to suicide. In particular, the study examined whether role models’ suicide attempts, especially friends and family, trigger new suicidal thoughts among adolescent individuals.
Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) were used to evaluate the above hypothesis. Three separate waves of data were analyzed: Wave I data was collected from 1994 to 1995, Wave II followed in 1996, and Wave III from 2001 to 2002 for a total of 20, comma, 745 respondents across the three wave collections. High school students who participated in Waves I and II of the study were selected for analyses of Wave II outcomes, and high school students in Waves I, II, and III were selected for analyses of Wave III outcomes. In addition, the study selected only adolescents with no suicidal thoughts or attempts in Wave I, for a total sample of 9, comma, 309 respondents. “Suicidal thoughts” refer to whether respondents ever seriously thought about committing suicide in the past 12 months. Family and friend “suicide attempt” refers to whether any family or friend of the respondent had attempted suicide during the past 12 months. The results are shown in Table 1. For example, from the results we can see that if female high school students experience a family member attempting suicide during the first time period, then they are 2, point, 129 times more likely to report suicidal thoughts at the next time period.
Table 1: Odds ratio from logistic regression models predicting adolescents' suicidal thoughts at Wave II and Wave III
Note: Both models control for 1) background demographic variables such as age, race, parental education, partner preference, grades; 2) social integration variables such as religious participation, family structure, family and friend integration; 3) psychological factors including emotional distress. Asterisk indicates significance.
Data adapted from: S. Abrutyn and A. S. Mueller. (2014). “Are Suicidal Behaviors Contagious in Adolescence? Using Longitudinal Data to Examine Suicide Suggestion". American Sociological Review.
Which of the findings is accurate according to the data presented in Table 1?
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