Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)


Center for Psychological Studies

First Advisor

Ralph E. Cash

Second Advisor

Sarah Valley-Gray

Third Advisor

Craig Marker


Adolescents, Family Functioning, Problem-Solving, Suicide


Suicide is a leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults. Numerous risk factors have been identified in the literature, including poor problem-solving skills, poor family functioning, excessive risk-taking behaviors, legal difficulties, and school difficulties. Deficits in problem-solving skills and poor family functioning are typically reported together, indicating a relationship between the two. However, no previous studies have identified this relationship. The purpose of this study was to identify possible relationships between two known risk factors and suicidal ideation, to determine whether problem-solving skills taught in the experimental groups reduce suicidal ideation and improve perceptions of family relationships, and to establish if knowledge of problem-solving skills acts as a mediator between family functioning and suicidal ideation. Archival data of 285 adolescents who participated in up to 10 sessions dedicated to teaching the process of solving problems were analyzed. There was an unusually high attrition rate (64%), and so in some analyses, only data from 85 adolescents was reported. One empirically-validated questionnaire and three additional questionnaires were utilized to assess suicidal ideation, perception of family functioning, risky behaviors, and knowledge of steps in problem-solving. Knowledge of the problem solving process was shown to significantly improve over the course of the group. Although there were not significant improvements in suicidal ideation or family functioning, the change in scores was in the predicted direction. The results also found significant correlations between family functioning and problem solving and family functioning and suicidal ideation; however, no significant relationship was found between problem solving and suicidal ideation. Additionally, there were many significant correlations found between the outcome measures and many of the risk factors for suicide. Lastly, a mediator effect of problem-solving on the relationship between family functioning and suicidal ideation was found at pre-test only.

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