Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Madelyn Labella

Committee Members

Meghan Quinn

Noah Lemos


Background: Suicide is a major public health concern among adolescents. Although research has made progress in identifying risk factors for youth suicidality, there has been less focus on early developmental antecedents of youth suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Taking a developmental psychopathology perspective, we examined longitudinal associations among multiple aspects of self-regulation (i.e., emotion regulation, emotion reactivity, parasympathetic regulation, inhibitory control), life stress, and suicidal ideation. We hypothesized that deficits in self-regulation during middle childhood and early adolescence and greater life stress during early and middle childhood would predict higher lifetime suicidal ideation reported in adolescence.

Method: Participants were adolescents (N = 177) enrolled in a longitudinal follow-up of a randomized control trial evaluating the efficacy of a parenting intervention in infancy. Self-regulation was assessed using parent-reported emotion regulation, self-reported emotion reactivity, parasympathetic regulation (i.e., respiratory sinus arrhythmia at rest and in response to challenge), and inhibitory control during two behavioral tasks. Early life stress was scored based on parent report, and adolescents reported suicidal ideation. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were used to assess socio-demographics, risk group, self-regulation, and life stress as predictors of youth suicidality.

Results: Greater emotion reactivity significantly predicted greater suicidal ideation intensity in adolescence, and this association persisted after controlling for sex. Other candidate predictors were not significantly associated with youth suicidality, although life stress during early and middle childhood predicted worse emotion regulation and inhibitory control during middle childhood.

Conclusion: Results provide evidence for heightened emotion reactivity as a risk factor for suicidal ideation in adolescents and have clinical implications for prevention and intervention targeting youth suicidality. More research is needed on the role of life stress in predicting self-regulation in middle childhood and beyond.

Keywords: Adolescents, suicide, suicidal ideation, self-regulation, early life stress