Risk-taking behavior and suicidality: The unique role of adolescent drug use


Ammerman, Brooke A.; Steinberg, Laurence; & McCloskey, Michael S. (2018). Risk-taking behavior and suicidality: The unique role of adolescent drug use. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. vol. 47 (1) pp. 131-141


Research has supported an association between suicidal thoughts/behaviors and risk taking, which may be particularly strong during adolescence when risk taking is known to increase. However, extant research has focused on individual risk-taking behaviors (e.g., alcohol use), limiting our ability to evaluate the unique association between different risk-taking behaviors and suicidal thoughts/behaviors. The current study aimed to fill this gap by examining the simultaneous influence of multiple risk-taking behaviors (i.e., risky sexual behavior, tobacco/alcohol use, illicit drug use, delinquent behavior, violent behavior) on adolescent suicidal thoughts/behaviors. Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health was utilized. The sample consisted of 4,834 adolescents who completed home interviews at two time points. At the first time point, participants' mean age was 15.15, with 48% (n = 2,315) identifying as male. Participants provided information about suicidal thoughts/behaviors and multiple risk-taking behaviors at an initial interview and at a second interview, approximately 11 months later. When independently examined, nearly all assessed risk-taking behaviors were independently associated with suicidal ideation concurrently and prospectively, and with suicide attempts concurrently. When all risk-taking behaviors were examined simultaneously, illicit drug use was the only significant concurrent and significant prospective, albeit negative, predictor of suicidal thoughts and only concurrent predictor of suicidal behavior. The current findings suggest that illicit drug use may have a stronger association with suicidal thoughts and behaviors than other risk-taking behavior. These findings have implications for prevention and intervention programs for adolescents.




1537-4424 Ammerman, Brooke A Steinberg, Laurence McCloskey, Michael S Journal article England J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2016 Oct 12:1-11.

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology


Ammerman, Brooke A.
Steinberg, Laurence
McCloskey, Michael S.

Year Published


Volume Number


Issue Number





October 12, 2016





Reference ID