The relationship between psychological inflexibility and the interpersonal needs underlying suicidality in a juvenile offender sample.


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According to the interpersonal theory of suicide, thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness are necessary components underlying suicidal desire (Van Orden et al., 2010). Theorists suggest that psychological inflexibility underlies psychopathology, including suicidal desire (Hayes et al., 2008). Though research has related components of psychological inflexibility to interpersonal needs within adult samples (e.g., Hapenny & Fergus, 2017), it remains unexamined how psychological inflexibility relates to interpersonal needs within a youth sample. As juvenile offenders are particularly vulnerable to suicide, examining this potential relationship within a juvenile offender sample may provide unique insight (Joshi & Billick, 2017). The present study examined interrelations between psychological inflexibility and interpersonal needs. The sample consisted of 99 youths residing within a juvenile justice center in the state of Texas, with a mean age of 15.1 years (SD = 1.31, range 12-17). Participants were predominantly male (86.9%), with a slight majority identifying as African-American (36.4%). Participants completed self-report measures of the targeted variables (all Cronbach’s αs > .70). As predicted, psychological inflexibility positively correlated with thwarted belongingness (r = .31, p < .01) and perceived burdensomeness (r = .49, p < .01). Hierarchical multiple linear regression analyses found that, beyond covariates of depression and hopelessness, psychological inflexibility accounted for a significant amount of unique variance in perceived burdensomeness (ΔR2 = .06, partial r = .29, p < .01), but not in thwarted belongingness. Overall, the present results indicate that psychological inflexibility may aid in better understanding perceived burdensomeness and suicidal desire in youth.



Psychological inflexibility. Interpersonal theory of suicide. IPTS. Acceptance and commitment therapy. ACT. Interpersonal needs. Perceived burdensomeness. Thwarted belongingness. Juvenile justice. Adolescents.