Risk factors and the availability of social resources as variables influencing suicidal ideation among South African and British adolescents
Adolescence is considered as a period filled with significant physical, emotional, cognitive and social changes and challenges. Some adolescents might become so overwhelmed by the extensive internal and external transitions that they resort to self damaging behaviour such as suicidal behaviour. A significant increase in adolescent suicidal behaviour has been noted globally in both developed and developing countries. Suicidal behaviour is a multidimensional phenomenon, comprising of personal and contextual factors, developmental challenges and transitions as well as coping responses that constantly interact and as such, influence the risk for suicidal behaviour. The Integrated Stress and Coping Model of Moos and Schaefer (1993) was used as theoretical framework of this study. The aim of this study was to investigate a group of English (United Kingdom as a developed country) and South African (a developing country) adolescents with regard to the influence of personal and contextual stressors and resources, as well as coping strategies on their level of suicidal ideation. A non-experimental, cross sectional design including a correlational and criterium group design was used in this study. A stratified sample of 678 (297 English and 381 Northern Cape) 14 to 16 year old learners were gathered from schools in Surrey, England and the Northern Cape Province in South Africa. A biographical questionnaire, The Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire for Adolescents, the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale, the Life Stressors and Social Resources Inventory Scale (LISRES), the Hope Scale as well as the Coping Orientations to Problems Experienced Scale (COPE) were used to gather information from the participants. Intercorrelations between the variables were determined with Pearson-product moment correlation coefficients. A step-wise regression analysis was computed in which suicidal ideation was the criterion variable and the various subscales of the Self Esteem, Hope, COPE and LISRES scales were the predictor variables.The 1 % level of statistical significance was used as guideline of significance. Results from the study suggested that the incidence of suicidal ideation was significantly higher for the English adolescent group than for their Northern Cape counterparts. The English group reported school, relationship with siblings and physical health as major stressors while the Northern Cape group viewed socio-economic problems and negative life experiences as significant stressors. Both groups reported family and friends as significant resources. With regard to coping strategies utilized it appears that the Northern Cape participants made use of a wider range of coping strategies such as Problem-focussed, Emotion-focussed and Dysfunctional coping responses. The only coping strategy that the English adolescents utilized more frequently than the Northern Cape participants was alcohol and drug disengagement. Furthermore English girls showed a stronger preference in utilizing this dysfunctional coping strategy than the English boys. In the step-wise regression analysis the predictor variables together explained a much higher percentage of the variance in the suicidal ideation of the English group than for their Northern Cape counterparts. Ten of the 33 variables made a significant contribution (93.5%) to the variance of the suicidal ideation of the English group. The 10 variables in order of their introduction to the step-wise regression equation was Alcohol-drug Disengagement (67.7%), Physical Health (8.24%), Hope Agency (9.72%), Resource: Family (3.10%), Resource: Friends (1.10%), Self-Esteem (1.10%) Siblings as stressor (0.82%), Family as stressor (0.34%), Mental Disengagement (0.71%) and Acceptance (0.50%).Only two variables, namely Self-esteem (10.94%) and Denial (1.92%) made a statistically significant contribution to the variance in suicidal ideation (explaining 12.4% of the variance of the Northern Cape participants). Limitations of this study were the use of non British and South African measuring instruments and the age difference between the two groups with the English group being 18 months younger than the Northern Cape group. The results of this study emphasise the value of cross national studies. Longitudinal studies comparing cohorts from different countries are recommended.
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