The Relationship between Three Religious Coping Styles and Suicidal Ideation and Positive Ideation in Young Adults

Smith, Danielle Ann Elise
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Internationally, suicide is highly prevalent among adolescents and young adults, and South African data suggest that suicide is a serious problem that is increasingly affecting the Black population and young men in particular. This study aimed firstly to investigate the prevalence of suicidal behaviour among young adults, and, in a sample of 85 young people (aged 19-30), one in seven had previously attempted suicide, and almost one in three had recently thought about killing themselves. Sociological research has shown that religion has a predominantly protective effect with regard to suicide, however psychological research, while providing evidence for a similar relationship, has also shown that religious strain may contribute to suicidality. This study sought to establish whether a relationship exists between suicidal ideation (and positive ideation), and various indicators of religiosity. Unexpectedly, given the research trends, suicidal ideation was significantly positively associated with self-reported religious salience (r = .297, p = .006), and with the collaborative/deferring religious coping style (r = .301, p = .005), characterized by higher levels of religiosity. Suicidal ideation was significantly negatively associated with the self-directing style (r = -.331, p = .002), favoured by less religious participants. Positive ideation was unrelated to religious salience, participation, and both religious coping approaches. Various explanations were proposed for these results. Cognition is a central pathway for suicidality, and insecure religious attachment, when triggered by stressors, may set in motion a cognitive process involving negative religious attributions and harmful religious coping strategies – typical symptoms of religious strain which has been associated with suicidal behaviour. Maladaptive religious beliefs and behaviours may also have a negative impact on depression, hopelessness and helplessness, all vulnerability factors for suicidal behaviour in young people. It is also possible that, when faced by life challenges that exceed coping capacity, individuals may be more likely to turn to God, while simultaneously experiencing hopelessness, depression and suicidal ideation. Finally, the gender skew in the sample may have resulted in the high levels of suicidal behaviour and religiosity, and the positive relationship between them. Vulnerability to suicidal behaviour in young adults is a multifaceted problem, and religion, itself a multidimensional concept, is one of many factors that may provide protection against or contribute to suicidal behaviour. In order to understand the complex problem of vulnerability to suicidal behaviour in young adults, there is a need for further multivariate research.
Student Number : 7820500 - MA research report - School of Psychology - Faculty of Humanities
suicide , suicidal ideation , suicidal behaviour , religion , religious coping , religious strain , religious attributions , hopelessness , depression , helplessness , coping , problem-solving , guilt , South Africa , young adults