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A Factor Analysis of Six Commonly Used Instruments Associated With Suicide Using College Students Lillian M. Range & Karla B. Antonelli Published online: 22 Jun 2011.

To cite this article: Lillian M. Range & Karla B. Antonelli (1990) A Factor Analysis of Six Commonly Used Instruments Associated With Suicide Using College Students, Journal of Personality Assessment, 55:3-4, 804-811, DOI: 10.1080/00223891.1990.9674115 To link to this article:

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A Factor Analysis of Six Commonly Used Instruments Associated With Suicide Using College Students Downloaded by [University of Toronto Libraries] at 21:46 06 January 2015

Lillian M. Range and Karla B. Antonelli University of Southern Mississippi

Determined whether six commonly used inventories which are associated with suicide (Hopelessness Scale, Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale, Scale for Suicide Ideation, Reasons for Living Inventory, Suicide Probability Scale, and the Suicide Ideation Questionnaire) overlap; all six were given to 308 undergraduates. A principal components factor analysis yielded four factors with Eigenvalues greater than 1.00. These four factors were labeled SuicidaVNegative Ideas, Reasons for Living, Self-Doubt, and Suicide Desire. Each scale or subscale had a factor loading of .4 or greater on one factor. Only the Survival and Coping Beliefs subscale of the Reasons for Living Inventory and the Suicide Ideation Questionnaire loaded on two factors. Thus, each of these six instruments accounts for unique variance in suicidality. A suicide screening battery that includes all six inventories would take approximately 20 min for college students to complete, and would be valuable in identifying different aspects of suicidality.

There may be different aspects of suicidality, including cognitive components (i.e., hopelessness about the future), emotional components (i.e., depression), and behavioral components (i.e., history of actual suicide attempts). Different instruments have been developed t o measure these aspects of suicidality. O n e cognitive component in suicidality is what people think about the future. Beck, Kovacs, and Weissman (1975) established a link between suicidality and hopelessness. In fact, Beck, Steer, Kovacs, and Garrison (1985) found that hopelessness and pessimism about the future predicted eventual suicide in a group of psychiatrically hospitalized individuals. T h e Hopelessness Scale (HS; Beck, Weissman, Lester, & Trexler, 1974) was developed t o assess this component. Another cognitive component in suicidality is the reasons that people have not t o commit suicide should the thought occur t o them. Linehan,

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Goodstein, Nielsen, and Chiles (1983) developed the Reasons for Living Inventory (RFL) to assess this cognitive component in suicide. A behavioral component in suicide is a person's history of seriously contemplating or attempting suicide. An instrument that measures this behavioral component is the Suicide Behaviors Questionnaire (SBQ Linehan & Nielsen, 1981). One subscale of the Scale for Suicide Ideation (SSI; Beck, Kovacs, & Weissman, 1979), Specific Plans, also measures this component. An emotional component in suicide is depression (Zung, 1965). Negative Self-Evaluation, one subscale of the Suicide Probability Scale (SPS; Cull & Gill, 1982) also could be seen as measuring this component of suicide. Other instruments seem to combine the emotional, behavioral, and cognitive components in suicide. These instruments, including the SPS, the SSI, and the Suicide Ideation Questionnaire (SIR, Reynolds, 1987), may be redundant with the older instruments. If their uniqueness, if any, were known, it might be possible to develop a suicide screening battery that would include entire instruments or subscales that were different from each other. Such a battery might be able to identify distinct aspects of suicidality, and might account for more variance in suicidality than any single instrument. Knowing and identifying these aspects of suicidality would facilitate the development of suicide interventions appropriate for each individual. Ascertaining the uniqueness, if any, of six commonly used questionnaires associated with suicide is the purpose of our study.

METHOD Participants Participants were 308 undergraduates (166 women, 119 men, 23 did not report gender) enrolled in an introductory psychology course at a medium-sized southern university. Average age was 19.96; 172 were White, 71 were Black, aind 26 did not report race.

Materials The SBQ (Linehan &- Nielsen, 1981) originally consisted of 45 items about suicide. Another factor analysis (Cole, 1988) found that four questions loaded together. These four were used in our study: "Have you ever thought about or attempted to kill yourself?" (rated 1-6); "How often have you thought about killing yourself in the past year!" (rated 1-5); "Have you ever told someone that you were going to commit suicide, or that you might do it?" (rated 1-3); "How likely is it that you will attempt suicide someday?"(rated 1-5). The SBQ has been

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used as a measure of suicide in several research projects (Cole, 1988; Linehan et al., 1983; Neyra, Range, & Goggin, in press). The RFL (Linehan et al., 1983) consists of 48 potential reasons for not committing suicide should the thought occur. Each item is rated on a 6-point Likert scale, ranging from extremely unimportant (1) to extremely important (6). Factor analysis (Linehan et al., 1983; Range & Steede, 1988) has revealed six distinct subscales: Survival and Coping Beliefs, Responsibility to Family, Child Concerns, Fear of Suicide, Fear of Social Disapproval, and Moral Objections. The RFL is reliable, with Cronbach alphas ranging from .72 to .89 for each subscale (Linehan et al., 1983; Range & Steede, 1988). It is also valid, with some subscales differentiating suicide ideators from nonideators, suicide attempters from nonattempters, and those with a history of suicide ideation from those with no such history (Linehan et al., 1983). The HS (Beck et al., 1974) consists of 20 true-false items reflecting hopelessness. It has been shown to be highly internally consistent (Beck et al., 1974). Furthermore, it discriminates eventual suicides from nonsuicides (Beck et al., 1985), and is highly correlated with clinical ratings of hopelessness and other self-administered measures of hopelessness (Beck et al., 1974). It is also sensitive to changes in depression over time (Beck et al., 1974). The SIQ (Reynolds, 1987) consists of 30 suicide thoughts which are rated on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from almost every day (1) to 1 never had this thought (7). Thus, low scores indicate more suicidal ideas. Reliability of the SIQis strong, with Cronbach alphas of .96, internal consistencies of .93, and item-total correlations of .72. Validity of the SIQ is supported by its positive correlations with adolescent depression (r = .59), adult depression (r = .69), anxiety (r = .57), hoplessness (r = .48), and negative life events (r = .39); and its negative correlations with self-esteem (r = - .52). The Self-RatingDepression Scale (2; Zung, 1965), a commonly used measure of depression, consists of twenty %point self-referent Likert items reflecting affective, physiological, and psychological symptoms of depression. Higher scores indicate more depression. The SPS (Cull & Gill, 1982) consists of 36 statements describing feelings and behaviors. Each is rated on a %point scale ranging from none or a little of the time (1) to most or all of the time (4). There are four subscales: Hopelessness, Suicide Ideation, Negative Self-Evaluation, and Hostility. Reliability of the SPS is moderate to strong, with split-half estimates ranging from .58 to .88 on each subscale and test-retest reliability of .92. Validity of the SPS is supported by item-scale correlations ranging from .51 to .75 for each subscale. The SSI (Beck et al., 1979) consists of nineteen 3-point suicide-related items which are scored so that higher scores indicate more suicide ideation. Factor analysis of the SSI has yielded three factors: Active Suicidal Desire, Passive Suicidal Desire, and Specific Plans for Suicide. Reliability of the SSI is strong, with 16 of the 19 items having positive and significant item-total correlations



and a Cronbach alpha of .89 (Beck et al., 1979). Validity of this SSI is supported by its high internal consistency (39) and moderate correlations with clinical ratings of suicidal risk and self-harm. Furthermore, it is sensitive to changes in depression and hopelessness over time (Beck et al., 1979).

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Procedure During class, students were recruited to participate in a research project about college students' ideas about suicide. Those who were willing to participate answered three demographic questions, then completed, in order, the SBQ, RFL, HS, SIQ, 2, SPS, and the SSI. Due to the sensitive nature of the topic, participants were offered the chance to leave their name and phone number if they had additional questions or wanted counseling (which was offered without charge) about the issues raised. About 50 students completed this optional portion of the assessment battery. Most of these students, when called, had mistakenly assumed that they might get a chance to obtain more experimental credit. Other students (about 15) had questions about the results or rationale for the study or had moved without leaving a forwarding number. No one who was reached requested further counseling.

RESULTS The average score on the SBQ was 5.56 (SD = 2.18), which suggested moderate suicide ideas or behaviors in these college students. See Table 1 for means and standard deviations on each subscale. A principal components factor analysis with varimax rotation indicated four factors with Eigenvalues greater than 1.00. A Scree test also indicated a four factor solution. These four factors were logically consistent. See Table 2 for factor loadings. The first factor was labeled Suicidal/Hostile Ideas, and consisted of a strong (greater than .4O) negative loading on the SIQ (indicating more suicidal ideas), and positive loadings on SPS subscales of Hopelessness, Hostility, and Suicide Ideation (loadings = - .59, .85, .84, and 231, respectively). The second facror was labeled Reasons for Living, and consisted of strong positive loadings on all six RFL subscales: Survival and Coping Beliefs, Responsibility to Family, Child Concerns, Fear of Suicide, Fear of Social Disapproval, and Moral Objections (loadings = .44, .71, .65, .72, 81, and .66, respectively). The third factor was labeled Self Doubts, and consisted of strong negative loadings on RFL Survival and Coping Beliefs, and the SIQ, and strong positive loadings on the SBQ, H[S, 51, 2, and the SPS subscale Negative Self-Evaluation (loadings = - .58, - .40, .64, .67, and .76, respectively). The fourth factor was labeled Suicide Desire, and


RANGE AND ANTONELLI TABLE 1 Means and Standard Deviations on Demographic Variables and on Each Scale







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Survival and Coping Beliefs (SCB) Responsibility to Family (RF) Child Concerns (CC) Fear of Suicide (FS) Fear of Social Disapproval (FSD) Moral Objections N O )



SPS Hopelessness Negative Self-Evaluation Hostility Suicide Ideas SSI Active Suicide Passive Suicide Preparations Note. Sex = 166 women and 119 men (23 did not report): race = 172 White, 71 Black, and 1 other (26 did not report).

consisted of strong loadings on all three SSI subscales, Active Suicide Desire, Passive Suicide Desire, and Specific Suicide Plans (loadings = .65, .74, and .81, respectively). These four distinct factors accounted for 63.3% of the variance.

DISCUSSION Results indicate that these commonly used instruments are measuring separate and, for the most part, distinct factors in suicidality. Each scale or subscale loaded on at least one factor, suggesting that each is valuable in accounting for different variance. Only two scale/subscales loaded on more than one factor, suggesting that each is quite distinct. Furthermore, the four aspects of suicidality suggested by this study (negative ideas, reasons for living, self-doubt, and suicide desire) are logical. Negative ideas and reasons for living could be viewed as the cognitive components of suicide; self-doubt could be viewed as having both cognitive and emotional components of suicide; and suicide desire could be viewed as the behavioral component of suicide (i.e., making specific plans). These factors account for 63% of the





Rotated Factor Matrix Factor I: Negative Ideas

Factor 2: Reasons for Living

Factor 3: SelfDoubt

Factor 4: Suicidal Desire



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RF CC FS FSD MO HS SIQ Z SPS Hopelessness Negative Self-Evaluation Hostility Suicide Ideas SSI Active Suicide Passive Suicide Preparations

variance in suicidality, suggesting that they would comprise a powerful suicide screening battery. Factor 1, which was labeled Negative Ideas, indicated that those who had low scores (i.e., more suicidal) on the SIQ also had high scores on three of the four SPS subscales (Hopelessness, Hostility, and Suicide Ideation). Notably, the HS itself did not load on this factor. The difference between the HS and the SPS Hopelessness subscale is that HS appears to be more concerned with the future, whereas the Hopelessness subscale of the SPS is about present feelings and attitudes. Factor 2, which was labeled Reasons for Living, was composed of all :six subscales of the RFL and no other factors. The RFL is apparently quite unique in relationship to other instruments. It is also internally consistent. Factor 3, which was labeled Self-Doubt, indicated that those who expressed current or past suicide ideation or behavior also doubted their own ability to cope, were hopeless about the future, felt depressed, and evaluated themselves negatively. It is not surprising that hopelessness and depression loaded on the same factor, and that negative self-evaluation and doubts of their ability to cope loaded on the same factor. It may be that those who doubt themselves are able to see no alternative but suicide.

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Factor 4, which was labeled Suicide Desire, consisted of all three SSI subscales (Active Suicide Desire, Passive Suicide Desire, and Specific Suicide Plans) and no other factors. This scale, too, is unique in relation to other instruments, and is internally consistent. A limitation of our study was the use of college students, who may report different reasons for being suicidal or different constraints against suicide than would other segments of the population. Replication of this study with adolescents and older adults would be a valuable addition to the suicide literature. Also, another factor analysis of individual items rather than scales and subscales would be valuable. The average score on the SBQ, which measures past or present suicide thinking and behavior, was 5.56, which indicates mild to moderate suicide ideation or behavior. This rate of suicide ideation or behavior is distressingly high, but consistent with that of Linehan et al. (1983), who found that about a quarter of shoppers at a suburban mall reported seriously considering suicide or actually having attempted it, and an additional third reported briefly or nonseriously considering suicide. Although the amount of time some people might take to complete all seven instruments used here might become a liability, college students could complete all seven instruments in about 20 min. Furthermore, the scale that overlapped most with others was the SIR. A suicide screening battery, therefore, could reasonably include Linehan's RFL and SBQ, Zung's Z, Beck et al.3 HS and SSI, and Cull and Gill's SPS, with the Reynolds's 30-item SIQ being optional.

REFERENCES Beck, A. T., Kovacs, M., & Weissman, A. (1975). Hopelessness and suicidal behavior. lournal of the American Medical Association, 234, 1146-1 149. Beck, A. T., Kovacs, M., & Weissman, A. (1979). Assessment of suicidal intention: The Scale for Suicide Ideation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 47, 343-352. Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., Kovacs, M., &Garrison, B. (1985). Hopelessness and eventual suicide: A 10-year prospective study of patients hospitalized with suicidal ideation. American Journal of Psychiaty, 142, 559-563. Beck, A. T., Weissman, L., Lester, D., & Trexler, L. (1974).Measurement of pessimism: The Beck Hopelessness Scale. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 861-865. Cole, D. A. (1988). Hopelessness, social desirability, depression, and parasuicide in two college student samples. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56, 131-136. Cull, J. G., & Gill, W. S. (1982). Suicide Probability Scale. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services. Linehan, M. M., Goodstein, J. L., Nielsen, S. L., & Chiles, J. A. (1983).Reasons for staying alive when you are thinking of killing yourself: The Reasons for Living Inventory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 276-286. Linehan, M. M., & Nielsen, S. L. (1981). Assessment of suicide ideation and parasuicide: Hopelessness and social desirability. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 49, 773-775. Neyra, C . J., Range, L. M., & Goggin, W. C. (in press). Reasons for living following success and



failure in suicidal and nonsuicidal college students. lournal of Applied Social Psychology. Range, L. M., & Steede, K. C. (1988, April). Factor structure of adolescents' scores on the Reasons for Living Inventory. Poster presented at the meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, New Orleans. Reynolds, W. M. (1987). About my life: SIQ Form HS. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources. Zung, W. W. K. (1965). A self-rating depression scale. Archives of General Psychiatry, 12, 63-70.

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Lillian M. Range Department of Psychology University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS 39406 Received February 26, 1990

A factor analysis of six commonly used instruments associated with suicide using college students.

Determined whether six commonly used inventories which are associated with suicide (Hopelessness Scale, Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale, Scale for S...
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