Death concepts in suicidal adolescents

Doron Gothelf, Alan Apter*, Ayelet Brand-Gothelf, Noa Offer, Hadas Ofek, Sam Tyano, Cynthia R. Pfeffer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the relationship between components of death concept (preoccupation with death, death as a pleasant state, and death as final) and suicidal behavior in adolescents. Method: The death concepts of 51 suicidal inpatients, 102 nonsuicidal inpatients, 36 emergency room suicidal subjects, and 81 normal controls were compared using Pfeffer's Child Suicide Potential Scale. In addition, the IQ level as well as emotions that potentially influence the death concept were measured. Results: Both groups of suicidal adolescents evaluated death as more pleasant than the nonsuicidal groups. All the study groups equally perceived death as a final state. Suicidal inpatients were more preoccupied with death than nonsuicidal inpatients, but surprisingly among all study groups, including normal controls, the emergency room suicidal subjects were the least preoccupied with death. Partialing out depression, anxiety, and aggression specifically augmented the association between preoccupation with death and suicidality. Thus the relationship between death concept and suicidality appears to be a direct one. No correlation was found between suicidality and intelligence level. Conclusions: Elements of death concept distinguish suicidal from nonsuicidal as well as between hospitalized versus nonhospitalized suicidal adolescents. Thus the death concept evaluation is potentially valuable in the assessment of adolescents with a high risk for suicide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1279-1286
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1998


  • Adolescents
  • Affects
  • Death concept
  • Suicide


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