Skip to main content

The relevance of the interpersonal theory of suicide for predicting past-year and lifetime suicidality in autistic adults.

Moseley, R. L., Gregory, N. J., Smith, P., Allison, C., Cassidy, S. and Baron-Cohen, S., 2022. The relevance of the interpersonal theory of suicide for predicting past-year and lifetime suicidality in autistic adults. Molecular Autism, 13 (1), 14.

Full text available as:

s13229-022-00495-5.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.


DOI: 10.1186/s13229-022-00495-5


Background: While there are known risk factors for suicidality in autistic adults, these are often unconnected from theoretical frameworks that might explain why risk is elevated and guide clinical interventions. The present study investigated the relevance of constructs from the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide (ITS), including perceived burden‑ someness, thwarted belongingness and acquired capability for suicide, and explored mechanisms through which certain risk factors (relationship status, age at diagnosis) might elevate suicide risk. Methods: Autistic adults (n=314) completed an online study including measures of depression, anxiety and constructs from the ITS. Linear and multinomial regression analysis disentangled contributions of ITS variables from efects of depression and anxiety for past-year suicide ideation, past-year and lifetime suicide attempts. Mediation analyses examined associations between risk factors and these suicide outcomes via mechanisms proposed by the ITS. Results: Past-year suicide ideation was associated with burdensomeness, mental rehearsal of suicide plans (a facet of acquired capability), and depression. Greater feelings of burdensomeness, and reduced fear of death, marked out participants who had attempted suicide in comparison to those who had experienced suicide ideation in the past year. Relationship status was indirectly associated with past-year suicide ideation via the mediators of depression and burdensomeness, and was associated with past-year attempts via its efect on ideation. Age at diagnosis was unre‑ lated to any variables. Limitations: Cross-sectional research is insensitive to causality and temporal dynamics, which is likely why interac‑ tion hypotheses from the ITS were unsupported. Normative measures may be invalid in autistic samples. There was no control group. The autistic sample was unrepresentative of the whole population, particularly autistic people with intellectual disabilities, ethnic/racial minorities, and gender minorities. Conclusions: Perceived burdensomeness and acquired capability appear potentially important to suicide in autistic people, and may mediate the efects of some risk factors. Future research should explore the temporal dynamics of suicide trajectories in longitudinal, prospective designs.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Correction to: Molecular Autism (2022) 13:14
Uncontrolled Keywords:Suicide;Thwarted belongingness;Perceived burdensomeness;Acquired capability;Relationships;Age at diagnosis
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:36814
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:04 Apr 2022 10:44
Last Modified:04 Apr 2022 10:44


Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...
Repository Staff Only -