The impact of exposure to violence on internalizing symptomatology and adolescent suicidal ideation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Tanya Eckert


Violence, Internalizing symptomatology, Adolescent, Suicidal ideation, At risk

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Few studies have examined the effects of exposure to community violence on suicidal ideation and related mental health outcomes, including depression and hopelessness. This study examined the effects of exposure to violence on 170 adolescents' self-reported levels of suicidal ideation, depression, and hopelessness. In addition, the study examined the impact of specific theoretical components of violence (i.e., violence towards an unfamiliar person, violence towards a friend or family member, violence towards yourself, violence towards society) and depression (i.e., dysphoric mood, anhedonia, negative self-statements, somatic complaints) on participants' suicidal ideation. Overall, 83.3% of the participants had been exposed to some form of community violence, 43% of the participants were at significant suicidal risk, 26% of the participants were at significant risk for depression, and 19% of the participants reported moderate to severe levels of hopelessness. Significant gender differences were found, with females reporting higher levels of suicidal ideation, depression, and hopelessness than males. Elevated levels of exposure to community violence were noted to significantly increase the odds of female participants being at-risk for suicidal ideation and hopelessness. However, exposure to community violence was not found to have an effect on the mental health outcomes of male participants. In addition, Caucasian participants were found to report significantly higher levels of suicidal ideation and hopelessness than African American participants. Violence experienced by the participants and violence directed at society were noted to increase the odds of male and female participants' levels of suicidal ideation, respectively. Additionally, anhedonia and negative self-statements increased the participants' odds of being at-risk for suicidal ideation above and beyond that accounted for by the other theoretical components of depression. Future research should design more effective assessment protocols that incorporate known risk factors to improve the accuracy and, subsequently, the feasibility of implementing large-scale suicide screening programs into school settings.