Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science





First Advisor

Loreto Prieto


There is evidence that different racial groups not only complete suicide at different rates, but conceptualize suicidal behavior differently (American Association of Suicidology [AAS], 2016; Brownson, Becker, Shadick, Jaggers, & Nitkin-Kaner, 2014; Maris, Berma, & Silverman, 2000; Shadick, Backus, & Babot, 2015). Evidence also exists indicating that key culture-based variables such as acculturation, enculturation, and acculturative stress are important variables to explore in research using Latino/a samples (Bernal, 1990; Del Pilar, 2009; Padilla & Lindholm, 1984), and may be related to the suicidal behavior of Latino/as (Fortuna, Perez, Canino, Sribney, & Alegria, 2007; Perez-Rodriguez, Baca-Garcia, Oquendo, Wang, Wall, et al., 2014), especially Latino/a college students (Gomez, Miranda, & Polanco, 2011; Hovey & King, 1996; Saldana, 1994; Walker, Wingate, Obasi, & Joiner, 2008).

The Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide (IPTS; Joiner, 2005; Van Orden, Cukrowicz, Witte, & Joiner, 2012; Van Orden, Witte, Gordon, Bender, & Joiner, 2008; Van Orden, Witte, Cukrowicz, Braithwaite, Selby, & Joiner, 2010), a recent theory in suicidology that has generated a significant amount of research, does not include culture-based factors within its model, and has not been shown to fit well when used to explain the suicidal behavior of racially diverse people (Davidson, Wingate, Slish, & Rasmussen, 2010; O’Keefe, Wingate, Tucker, Thoades-Kerswill, Slish, & Davidson, 2014; Wong, Koo, Tran, Chiu, & Mok, 2011; Garza & Pettit, 2010).

In my study, I tested and expanded upon IPTS, by applying Joiner’s construct of suicidal desire (as measured by the sub-constructs of thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness) to Latino/a American college students, to examine the ways in which the IPTS theory can predict their past, current, and future suicidal behavior. In addition, I gave consideration to Latino/a cultural factors by examining the moderating effects of acculturation and enculturation, as well as the potential mediation effects of acculturative stress, on the relation between primary IPTS constructs and past, present, and future suicidal risk. In a sample of 147 Latino/a American college students, results indicate that the IPTS, and perceived burdensomeness in particular, is useful in predicting suicidal risk. Acculturation, enculturation, and acculturative stress were not found to significantly moderate or mediate the relations of the IPTS model. However, enculturation was found to be a particularly salient cultural variable in the explanation of Latino/a American college student’s experience of perceived burdensomeness and its relation to their suicidal risk. Implications for continued examination of the role that relevant cultural factors play in the context of thwarted belongingness, perceived burdensomeness, and Latino/a American college student suicidal risk, as well as implications for utilizing the IPTS in future research and clinical work, are discussed.


Copyright Owner

Kelsey E Engel



File Format


File Size

118 pages