Rates and Mechanisms of Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors in Young Asian-American Women

Esther Tung, PhD

McLean Hospital – Fellow

Scientific Abstract

Background: Among the general Asian-American population, 18 to 25-year-old Asian-Americans and U.S. born Asian-American women have been found to have particularly high rates of suicidal ideation. An important risk factor for suicidal ideation in this population is family conflict. Asian-Americans who are the children of immigrants, as opposed to White-Americans and non-American Asians, are often exposed to two different cultures and parenting styles. Researchers have suggested that this leads to a “fractured identity” and suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs).

Methods: This study examined STBs in 18 to 25-year-old East Asian-American women. Depression and borderline personality disorder (BPD) severity were examined as mediating variables between family conflict and STBs. East Asian-American women (Asian-Americans) were compared to East Asian international students (Asians) and non-Hispanic/Latino whites (Caucasians). The study aimed to compare the prevalence and severity of STBs, depression, and BPD across ethnic groups, as well as compare family conflict and hypothesized pathways to suicidal ideation across groups using serial mediation and moderated mediation path analyses. Data were collected through an online survey (N = 1,455). Participants were recruited through Qualtrics data panels as well as relevant community and university student organizations. 

Results: Asian-Americans and Caucasians reported similar prevalence of suicidal thoughts and similar depression, BPD, and suicidal ideation severity. Asian-Americans experienced significantly more family conflict than the other groups and significantly more suicidal ideation severity as a result of having significantly more family conflict. However, the indirect effect of family conflict on suicidal ideation through depression and BPD severity was strongest in Caucasians, followed by Asian-Americans, and then Asians.

Conclusions: This study indicates that the prevalence of STBs is higher in young Asian-American women than previously established rates in the general Asian-American population and that family conflict is associated with increased depression, BPD, and suicidal ideation severity.

research Areas


Esther S. Tung, PhD, Timothy A. Brown, PsyD

Principal Investigator

Esther Tung, PhD