The role of hopelessness and social desirability in predicting suicidal behavior: a study of prison inmates

J Consult Clin Psychol. 1991 Jun;59(3):394-9. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.59.3.394.


The purpose of this study is to further examine the relationships among hopelessness, social desirability, and suicidal behavior in the decade-long dispute about the role of social desirability and the ability of the Beck Hopelessness Scale to predict suicidal behavior. Using a stratified random sample of state prison inmates, we found that hopelessness and suicidal behavior remain significantly correlated even after social desirability is held constant, failing to replicate Linehan and Nielsen's (1981, 1983) findings. In addition, a multivariate regression analysis demonstrated that the utility of hopelessness in predicting suicidal behavior varies with the level of social desirability, consistent with Holden, Mendonca, and Serin's (1989) results describing an interaction between hopelessness and social desirability. Implications for the assessment of suicidality incorporating the role of social desirability are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Psychometrics
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Desirability*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*