Attitudes and beliefs of adolescents and parents regarding adolescent suicide

Kimberly A. Schwartz, Sara A. Pyle, M. Denise Dowd, Karen Sheehan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The goal was to understand the attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions of adolescents and parents of adolescents, from a variety of backgrounds, regarding adolescent suicide. METHODS: This qualitative study used focus groups to elicit the thoughts of distinct sociodemographic groups. A professional moderator guided the sessions by using a semistructured script. All groups were audiotaped. The transcripts and transcript summaries were analyzed for recurrent themes. The study was performed in community centers and schools in Chicago, Illinois (urban), and the Kansas City, Kansas, area (suburban and rural). A total of 66 adolescents (13-18 years of age) and 30 parents of adolescents participated in 13 focus groups. RESULTS: Both adolescents and parents recognized adolescent suicide as a major problem, but not for their own communities. All parent and adolescent groups identified many risk factors for suicide. Most adolescents reported drug and alcohol use as risk factors for suicide. However, parents often viewed drug and alcohol use as normal adolescent behavior. Both adolescent and parent groups suggested securing or removing guns if an adolescent was known to be suicidal. All participants requested information about adolescent suicide. CONCLUSIONS: Adolescents and parents need help understanding that suicide is an underidentified problem in their own communities. Both adolescents and parents are interested in learning more about how to identify and to intervene with a suicidal adolescent. Pediatricians are well positioned to provide this information in the office and in the community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-227
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • Adolescents
  • Focus groups
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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