The long-lasting impact of adolescents' deviant friends on suicidality: a 3-year follow-up perspective

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2013 Feb;48(2):245-55. doi: 10.1007/s00127-012-0529-2. Epub 2012 Jun 21.


Background: During adolescence, friends are increasingly important for support and values. Do friends also have a long-term impact on suicidality? This study explored the role of friendship problems (e.g., social isolation) and deviant friends during late adolescence on suicidal ideation and behavior 3 years later.

Method: Participants were 295 community adolescents (59% Mexican-American; 41% European-American) from the United States. Information about their suicidal ideation and behavior, depression, friendship problems, and deviant friends was collected at baseline and at a 3-year follow-up.

Results: Having deviant friends was a better predictor of suicidality than having friendship problems, with variability by sex and ethnicity. Having deviant friends predicted suicidal ideation among Mexican-American adolescents. Having friends who were disconnected from school was a risk factor for suicidal ideation among European-American adolescents but a protective factor for suicidal behavior among Mexican-American adolescents, especially boys. Depression played more of a mediating role between friendship factors and suicidality for European-American than for Mexican-American adolescents.

Conclusions: This study's findings suggest an influence of adolescents' deviant friends on suicidality 3 years later. They also call for the cultural and gender grounding of suicide theory, research and prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Friends / ethnology
  • Friends / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans / psychology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Peer Group
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Isolation / psychology
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • White People / psychology*