Background: Suicide is the third leading cause of death among college students. The interpersonal theory of suicide may provide a way to conceptualize suicide risk in this population. Aims: We sought to examine relations between illegal behaviors that may act as risk factors for suicide and the acquired capability for suicide. Method: College students (N = 758) completed assessments of acquired capability and previous exposure to painful and provocative events, including illegal risk behaviors (IRBs). Linear regression, a nonparametric bootstrapping procedure, and two-tailed partial correlations were employed to test our hypotheses. Results: There was no significant relation between IRBs and acquired capability after controlling for legal painful and provocative experiences. A significant positive relation was identified between IRBs and fear/ anxiety, contradicting the expected relation between increased painful and provocative experiences and lower fear/anxiety. Acquired capability explained variance in the relation between IRBs and history of suicide attempt or self-injury history. Conclusion: Further research is needed to examine links between IRBs and painful and provocative events, particularly to identify the point at which habituation begins to increase acquired capability, as our unexpected results may be due to a lack of habituation to risky behaviors or low variability of scores in the sample.
- Acquired capability
- Illegal behaviors
- Interpersonal theory of suicide