Adolescent social networks matter for suicidal trajectories: Disparities across race/ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, and socioeconomic status

Yunyu Xiao, Michael A. Lindsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Examining social networks, characterized by interpersonal interactions across family, peer, school, and neighborhoods, offer alternative explanations to suicidal behaviors and shape effective suicide prevention. This study examines adolescent social networks predicting suicide ideation and attempt trajectories transitioning to adulthood, while revealing differences across racial/ethnic, sex, sexual identity, and socioeconomic status. Methods Participants included 9421 high school students (Mage = 15.30 years; 54.58% females, baseline) from Waves I-IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, 1994-2008. Latent class growth analyses were conducted to identify suicide ideation and attempt trajectories. Multivariate multinomial logistic regressions examined the relationships between social network characteristics during adolescence and suicidal trajectories. Interaction terms between social networks and sociodemographic characteristics were included to test moderation effects. Results Three suicidal ideation trajectories (low-stable, high-decreasing, moderate-decreasing-increasing) and two suicide attempt trajectories (low-stable, moderate-decreasing) were identified. Greater family cohesion significantly reduced the probability of belonging to high-decreasing (Trajectory 2) and moderate-decreasing-increasing (Trajectory 3) suicidal ideation trajectories, and moderate-decreasing (Trajectory 2) suicide attempt trajectory. Race/ethnicity, sex, and sexual identity significantly moderated the associations between social networks (household size, peer network density, family cohesion, peer support, neighborhood support) and suicidal trajectories. Conclusions Social networks during adolescence influenced the odds of belonging to distinct suicidal trajectories. Family cohesion protected youth from being in high-risk developmental courses of suicidal behaviors. Social networks, especially quality of interactions, may improve detecting adolescents and young adults at-risk for suicide behaviors. Network-based interventions are key to prevent suicidal behaviors over time and suicide intervention programming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3677-3688
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number15
StatePublished - Nov 3 2022


  • Adolescence
  • family cohesion
  • health disparities
  • life course
  • minority
  • social networks
  • suicidal ideation
  • suicidal trajectories
  • suicide attempt
  • young adult

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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