The role of autonomy needs in suicidal ideation: integrating the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide and self-determination theory

Arch Suicide Res. 2013;17(3):288-301. doi: 10.1080/13811118.2013.777001.


This study investigated the role of autonomy satisfaction in the development of suicidal ideation by integrating two theoretical models of suicide-related behaviors. The first hypothesized a direct effect of autonomy on suicidal ideation. The second hypothesized an indirect effect of autonomy on suicidal ideation via perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness. This was a cross-sectional study of 449 college students, who were predominantly female (73.1%) and Hispanic (70.6%), with a mean age of 20.40 years (SD = 4.38, range 18-50 years). Participants were recruited from a psychology participant pool and completed self-report survey measures for course credit. The model of indirect effects provided the best fit to the data; relatedness, autonomy, and competence were significantly associated with higher thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness, which, in turn, were significantly associated with higher suicidal ideation. Future studies should test this model longitudinally and consider autonomy as a possible avenue for the prevention of suicide-related behaviors.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Psychological Theory
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Identification*
  • Social Support
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Young Adult