Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Mary Lou Kelley


Among adolescents, escalating rates of completed and attempted suicide are reported worldwide (Maris, 1985). In the literature, a variety of risk factors have been associated with suicidality in adolescence. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between cognitive distortions, impulsivity, and stressful life events in suicidal adolescents. A total of 118 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 years participated in this investigation. The subjects comprised four groups: inpatient suicide attempters (n = 33); inpatient and outpatient suicide ideators (n = 17); inpatient, nonsuicidal controls (n = 33), and community high school controls(n = 35). Subjects completed self-report measures of cognitive distortions, depression, impulsivity, life events, and daily hassles and a semi-structured interview for suicidal behavior. Multivariate analyses revealed group differences in depression, hopelessness, and cognitive distortions and in life events and daily hassles; in addition, univariate analysis revealed group differences in impulsivity. Suicidal adolescents reported greater depression, hopelessness, and cognitive distortions than psychiatric and community controls. In addition, self-reported depression distinguished ideators and attempters. Suicidal adolescents reported greater negative life events and daily hassles than psychiatric and community controls. Impulsivity also differentiated suicidal adolescents from psychiatric and community controls. Among suicide attempters, medical lethality of suicide attempt was associated with hopelessness, daily hassles, and depression. Cognitive distortions and negative life events contributed to the prediction of suicidal behavior, above and beyond demographic variables, past suicide attempt(s), and depression.