Family Matters to Asian Americans Contemplating Suicide

Asian Americans face different social stressors than their American counterparts. Some of the factors that can cause particular sensitivity include discrimination, nativity and family conflict. Yusuke Kuroki and Jacqueline L. Tilley of the Department of Psychology at the University of Southern California evaluated Asian Americans at risk for suicide to determine which cultural and social factors impacted their suicidal ideation the most. They gathered data from the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS) on Asian American mental health and analyzed it using the classification and regression tree (CART) analysis. “Ultimately, CART analysis identifies subgroups, in which people are homogeneous in terms of dependent variables and independent variables, and creates a tree model that predicts the value for each subgroup,” said Kuroki. “Our aims were to (a) determine the most important predictors of suicidal ideation using random forest, and (b) generate a decision tree using CART that closely mirrors the clinical decision-making process and identifies the factors that best classify suicide attempters from non-suicide attempters.”

Based on information from 2,095 Asian Americans, Kuroki and Tilley found that participants with anxiety and depression were the most vulnerable for suicidal ideation. But family matters, such as a sense of belonging and family conflict, followed closely as predictors of suicidal ideation.  The team added, “Contrary to previous studies that suggest acculturative stress is a strong predictor of suicidal ideation, we found that its contribution to predictive accuracy in adult Asian Americans was zero.” They said, “Furthermore, the interpersonal theory of suicide hypothesizes that thwarted belongingness (e.g., family conflict) and perceived burdensomeness (e.g., mental illness) could give rise to suicidal ideation.” Kuroki believes these results have important clinical implications. “The findings underscore the importance for clinicians to be attentive to stressors related to family and perceived discrimination over and above the usual socio-demographic factors associated with suicidal behaviors, such as gender and age, when evaluating an Asian American client’s risk for suicide,” Kuroki said.

Kuroki, Y., & Tilley, J. L. (2011, December 26). Recursive Partitioning Analysis of Lifetime Suicidal Behaviors in Asian Americans. Asian American Journal of Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026586

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  • Minako


    January 4th, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    I am Japanese by birth and you would not belivee how hard our parents were on us growing up. When I emigrated to the states I was shocked by how laid back the families are here! The kids are allowed to practically do anything that they want and this is something that would never be accepted at home. And the idea of doing anything that will shame your family in Japan, like suicide, is almost hard to even think about. Yu might think about the problems that you are personally having but you would never want to bring that kind of hurt and shame onto your family name there. It is a completely different world than what I think that most Americans and westerners in general take for granted.



    January 4th, 2012 at 10:47 PM

    The family structures are totally different in Asians compared to Americans.Theyre more closely bounded,parents have a more authoritative role etcetera.So there’s bound to be family implications in what Asian kids would do.Only speaks more for background specific handling of cases instead of a generic methodology.

  • scarlett


    January 5th, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    If someone is desperate enough to want to commit suicide then the ways that their culture feels about it is going to come into play very little. If they are determined to end their life then sadly there is little that can be done to prevent that without a great deal of intervention and therapy.

  • jamie coles

    jamie coles

    January 5th, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    I have been through a lot of this in my teenage. If my family had not supported me at that juncture I would not be writing this comment here today. Suicide is not something somebody thinks of just like that. there is a whole lot of things that go on in a person’s mind before that for him to actually contemplate suicide. And although my early signs were ignored at home they really came to my rescue once they realized what was brewing. I am thankful to them even to this day and will remain so forever.

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