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Longitudinal panel networks of risk and protective factors in youth suicidality


Rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) are increasing among youth in the United States. Younger age at onset for STBs confers higher vulnerability to lifetime mental health concerns, yet relatively few studies have investigated STBs during the critical developmental period as youth transition from childhood into early adolescence. Several domains of risk and protective factors have been identified, however accurate prediction of STBs remains poor. Network analyses that can examine pairwise associations between many variables may provide information about complex pathways of risk for STBs, thereby improving the timing and targets of interventions. The present study applied a longitudinal panel network approach to elucidate potential risk and protective pathways for STBs across early adolescence. Data came from 9,854 youth who participated in the population-based Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (Mage = 9.90 ± .62 years, 63% white, 53% female at baseline). Youth and their caregivers completed an annual measurement battery from when participants were ages 9-10 through 11-12 years (i.e., three timepoints). 1,699 youth reported past or present STBs at one or more study timepoints. Panel Graphical Vector Autoregressive models evaluated temporal within-person, contemporaneous within-person, and between-person relations between several previously identified risk and protective factors for youth STBs, including mental health symptoms, socioenvironmental factors, life stressors, and substance use. An autoregressive effect was observed for STBs in the temporal network. In the contemporaneous and between-subjects networks, STBs had consistent direct associations with internalizing symptoms, low-level substance use, family conflict, lower parental monitoring, and lower school protective factors. Possible indirect pathways were also observed, in which other mental health symptoms and stressful life events might contribute to STBs through internalizing. Results emphasize that family and school experiences are salient social risk factors for early adolescents. Age-specific interventions may benefit from prioritizing targeting internalizing symptoms and early substance use, as well as promoting positive school and family support. Results support the use of longitudinal network approaches to understand the complex interplay between STBs and different domains of risk and protective factors.


2023 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.

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early adolescence
network analysis
ABCD study
suicidal thoughts and behaviors


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