Publication Date

Spring 2021

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Amy Brausch (Director), Diane Lickenbrock, and Jenni Teeters

Degree Program

Department of Psychological Sciences

Degree Type

Master of Science


Suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 years old (Drapeau & McIntosh, 2020). Being younger and female is significantly associated with suicidal behaviors (e.g., suicidal ideation, plan, and attempts), and girls report higher scores on suicidal ideation, plan, and attempts that result in a hospital visit compared to boys (Kann et al., 2018; Nook et al., 2008). Additionally, adolescents (e.g., 17.2%) reported the highest levels of nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) engagement compared to young adults (e.g., 13.4%) and adults (e.g., 5.5%), and girls reported more NSSI engagement than boys among adolescents (Klonsky, 2011). The age and gender differences are documented in prior literature, but other influential factors impact these differences. Emotion dysregulation is higher in adolescents compared to adults and is also associated with the prevalence of suicidal ideation and NSSI engagement (Arria et al., 2009; Orgeta, 2009; Whitlock et al., 2013). Interestingly, gender differences are also observed in emotion dysregulation: girls report higher scores across more dimensions of emotion dysregulation than boys (Bender et al., 2012). However, current research has not looked at whether gender could be influencing the relationship between emotion dysregulation, suicidal ideation, and NSSI among adolescents. The current study addressed this gap in literature by observing whether gender moderated the relationship between emotion dysregulation and suicidal ideation severity as well as emotion dysregulation and lifetime NSSI frequency. Data was collected from 693 adolescents in high school. Results indicate that girls reported higher scores on suicidal ideation severity, lifetime NSSI frequency, general emotion dysregulation (DERS total score), and depression than boys. Moreover, gender moderated the relationship between emotion dysregulation and suicidal ideation severity, but this relationship was only significant for girls. Gender also moderated the relationship between emotion dysregulation and lifetime NSSI frequency, but this relationship was only significant for girls. Results support that girls report higher levels of negative mental health outcomes than boys, but the relationships between emotion dysregulation and self destructive behaviors (e.g., suicidal ideation and NSSI) only being significant for girls expands our current understanding of adolescent psychology. These findings suggest that counselors and intervention programs should be aware of gender differences in NSSI engagement and suicide ideation as well as work with high school students on emotion dysregulation and mental health awareness.


Clinical Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Psychology

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