Date of Award

Spring 6-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor

Elizabeth L. Jeglic

Second Reader

Cynthia Calkins

Third Advisor

Sarah DeGue


Suicide is the leading cause of preventable death in US jails and prisons, with rates three to nine times higher than those of the general population. Although suicide in correctional settings has been recognized as a serious problem, the research on suicide among incarcerated individuals remains limited. While the majority of suicide risk factors may be common across all offender types, sex offenders may be at a particularly elevated risk. Specifically, sex offenders have been found to report high rates of hopelessness and depressive mood, which are known predictors of suicidal behavior, and approximately 14% of incarcerated sex offenders have previously reported a suicide attempt at some point in their lives. However, most of this data is based upon official reports and may represent an underreporting of the true prevalence of the problem. The current study provides an analysis of the prevalence and predictors of self-reported suicidal thoughts and behaviors in a large national sample of individuals convicted of a sexually based crime. Overall, 17.9% of sex offenders reported an attempted suicide in their lifetime and 15.1% reported experiencing suicidal ideation. A little more than a half of those who reported a suicide attempt had more than one suicide attempt. Demographic, mental health, and victim characteristics, along with a history of abuse and living environment in childhood, are presented in relation to suicidal behavior, followed by predictive hierarchical logistic regression models. Significant factors in the final model for suicide attempts were a history of psychiatric treatment, impact of a mental disorder, a history of physical abuse, and being in the foster care system in childhood. For suicidal ideation, predictive factors in the final model were a history of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, and a history of physical abuse. The findings are discussed as they pertain to suicide prevention and intervention efforts among those who have committed sex offenses.



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