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.