A Preliminary Test of the Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide in Women Seeking Shelter From Intimate Partner Violence

Academic Article


  • Women seeking shelter from intimate partner violence (IPV) are at greater risk of suicide ideation and attempts compared with women in the general population. A theoretically grounded understanding of suicide risk in shelter-seeking women is critical to improve assessment and management of suicide risk in this population. The interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide (IPTS) proposes that suicide ideation results from hopelessness about thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness. However, suicide ideation does not progress to death by suicide unless one has acquired the capability for suicide (i.e., pain tolerance and fearlessness about death) via repeated exposure to painful and fearsome events. The present study provides a preliminary test of the IPTS in a sample of 134 women seeking shelter from IPV. First, we examined factors theoretically related to suicide ideation, demonstrating that only at high levels of hopelessness was perceived burdensomeness associated with suicide ideation. The study also examined factors theoretically related to the acquired capability for suicide (ACS), indicating that physical partner violence perpetration was associated with ACS. These findings suggest that perceived burdensomeness, particularly in the context of increased hopelessness, is important in the assessment and treatment of suicide ideation. Furthermore, violence perpetration may indicate greater risk of the capability to die by suicide among women seeking shelter from IPV.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Wolford-Clevenger C; Smith PN; Kuhlman S; D’Amato D
  • Start Page

  • 2476
  • End Page

  • 2497
  • Volume

  • 34
  • Issue

  • 12