Spotlights

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Gregory Zimmerman

Gregory Zimmerman, Assistant Professor, will have a paper published in the Journal of Adolescent Health’s December 2014 issue. The issue will be available in November online on the JAH website.

Background: Research suggests that interpersonal violence and suicidal behavior often co-occur and share a common set of risk factors. This study examined (1) the extent to which individuals specialize in interpersonal violence or suicidal behavior, and (2) the shared and unique covariates of individual specialization.

Methods: The Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods is a longitudinal study of youths embedded within neighborhoods in metropolitan Chicago. Interviews with youths (average age 15 at baseline) and their primary caregivers were conducted from 1994 to 1997 (baseline) and from 1997 to 2000 (wave 2). Analysis used an Item-Response Theory-based statistical approach on 19,502 interpersonal violence and suicidal behavior item responses from 1,628 youths within 74 neighborhoods to assess the degree to which individuals specialize in either interpersonal violence (ranging from hitting someone to shooting someone) or suicidal behavior (ideation, planning, attempted suicide). The extent to which variables distinguished interpersonal violence and suicidal behavior was assessed.

Results: Individuals who engaged in high levels of interpersonal violence were unlikely to engage in suicidal behavior. Conversely, individuals who engaged in high levels of suicidal behavior were also likely to engage in interpersonal violence. Several shared (e.g., residential stability, substance use) and distinguishing (e.g., exposure to violent peers, depression) correlates of interpersonal violence and suicidal behavior were detected.

Conclusions: Interventions that address both self- and outward-directed violence must be evidence-based. Addressing violence prevention among youths at-risk for suicidal behavior appears warranted, but targeting risk factors for suicide among the most violent youths may not be justified.