Fearlessness about death: the psychometric properties and construct validity of the revision to the acquired capability for suicide scale

Psychol Assess. 2014 Mar;26(1):115-26. doi: 10.1037/a0034858. Epub 2013 Nov 25.


The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide proposes that suicidal behavior is so frightening that in order for an individual to engage in suicidal behavior, desire for suicide must be accompanied by the capability to do so. The capability for suicide is characterized by both a sense of fearlessness about death and elevated physiological pain tolerance. The primary aim of the current project was to reevaluate and revise the Acquired Capability for Suicide Scale (ACSS; Van Orden, Witte, Gordon, Bender, & Joiner, 2008) and offer a revision to the scale. Expert review of the scale items resulted in retaining 7 items assessing fearlessness about death. The recommendation is made to refer to the revised scale as the ACSS-Fearlessness About Death (ACSS-FAD) to reflect its content more specifically. A model with the 7 retained items provided good fit to the data across 3 independent samples of young adults. Multiple-group analyses examining measurement invariance across men and women found that the latent structure of the scale is comparable across gender. Data are also presented demonstrating convergent and discriminant validity for the scale in young adults and an inpatient psychiatric sample. Findings support the viability of the ACSS-FAD, indicating the scale has a replicable factor structure that generalizes across males and females and is substantively related to the construct of fearlessness about death. Taken together, the present work extends knowledge of the psychometrics of the ACSS-FAD in particular and the nature of fearlessness about death in general.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychological Theory
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult