Multi-level risk factors for suicidal ideation among at-risk adolescent females: The role of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis responses to stress

M. Giletta, C.D. Calhoun , P.D. Hastings , K.D. Rudolph, M.K. Nock, M.J. Prinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Adopting a multi-level approach, this study examined risk factors for adolescent suicidal ideation, with specific attention to (a) hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis stress responses and (b) the interplay between HPA-axis and other risk factors from multiple domains (i.e., psychological, interpersonal and biological). Participants were 138 adolescent females (Mage = 14.13 years, SD = 1.40) at risk for suicidal behaviors. At baseline, lifetime suicidal ideation and a number of risk factors were assessed (i.e., depressive symptoms, impulsiveness, pubertal status and peer stress). Participants were exposed to a psychosocial stress task and HPA-axis responses were assessed by measuring cortisol levels pre- and post-stressor. At 3 months post-baseline, suicidal ideation again was assessed. Using group-based trajectory modeling, three groups of cortisol stress-response patterns were identified (i.e., hyporesponsive, normative, and hyperresponsive). As compared to females in the normative and hyporesponsive group, females in the hyperresponsive group were more likely to report a lifetime history of suicidal ideation at baseline, above and beyond the effects of the other predictors. Moreover, as compared to females in the normative group, females in the hyperresponsive group were at increased risk for reporting suicidal ideation 3 months later, after controlling for prior ideation. No interactions between cortisol group and the other risk factors were significant, with the exception of a non-significant trend between impulsiveness and cortisol group on lifetime suicidal ideation. Findings highlight the importance of HPA-axis responses to acute stressors as a risk factor for suicidal ideation among adolescents.
Keywords: Suicidal ideation, Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, Adolescence, Pubertal status, Peer stress, Impulsiveness
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-820
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Volume43
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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