Suicidal Behaviors in Early Adolescence: The Interaction Between School Connectedness and Mental Health

Publication Year


Journal Article

Previous research has identified mental health symptoms such as depression and aggression as contributing factors associated with suicidal ideation and attempts in adolescence. However, much of this work has focused on older adolescents (ages > 14) resulting in a dearth of knowledge about early adolescents under 12 years. Moreover, much less is known about school connectedness as a protective factor in the relationship between mental health symptoms and suicidal behaviors. This study examined the interaction effect between school connectedness and mental health symptoms on suicidal behaviors among early adolescents aged 9–12 years. Data were drawn from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and yielded an analytic sample (n = 2826) that was majority male (52%), Black (53%), and with an average age of 9.3 years. Data were analyzed using multivariate logistic regression. Among participants, 2% experienced suicidal ideation, and 2% experienced suicide attempts. Black adolescents were more than five times more likely to experience a suicide attempt compared to their White peers (AOR = 5.37; 95% CI = 1.71–16.95; p = .004). There was a significant interaction effect between withdrawn depressed symptoms and school connectedness (AOR = .95; 95% CI = .91–98; p = .006), and between aggressive behavior and school connectedness (AOR = 1.02; 95% CI = 1.01–1.03; p = .001) on suicide attempts. School connectedness did not moderate the relationship between mental health symptoms and suicidal ideation. The findings have important practical implications, which are discussed.

School Mental Health