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26-07-2019 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 9/2019

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 9/2019

Trajectories of Suicidal Ideation from Middle Childhood to Early Adolescence: Risk and Protective Factors

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 9/2019
Xinxin Zhu, Lili Tian, E. Scott Huebner
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10964-019-01087-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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Suicidal ideation is considered to be the first step on the pathway to suicide. Despite the fact that suicidal ideation is surprisingly prevalent among preadolescent children in China and elsewhere, and despite its possible increase during the transition into adolescence, its developmental patterns and predictors during this period are unclear, thus precluding a meaningful understanding of its determinants and possible trajectories. Thus, this study aimed to identify suicidal ideation trajectories and multisystemic predictors covering the transition from middle childhood to early adolescence. A total of 715 Chinese elementary school students (Mage = 8.95, SD = 0.71; 54.5% was male) participated in assessments at six time points, using six-month assessment intervals. Growth mixture modeling analyses extracted three distinct trajectories of suicidal ideation: “low-stable” (86.4%), “moderate-increasing” (7.1%) and “high-start” (6.5%). Multivariate logistic regression analyses revealed that social anxiety and academic anxiety served as risk factors for the adverse developmental trajectories of suicidal ideation; whereas self-esteem, life satisfaction, and academic achievement served as protective factors for the positive developmental trajectory of suicidal ideation. The identification of three subgroups with unique predictors highlights the importance of individual difference considerations in understanding the progression of suicidal ideation in childhood and adolescence and the need for specific programs tailored to the unique characteristics of the relevant trajectories. Furthermore, given that suicidal ideation may start in a proportion of middle childhood youths and continue into adolescence, the middle childhood period should provide an important window of opportunity for large-scale screening and prevention of the escalation of suicidality in adolescence.

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