Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

William G. Kirk

Thesis Committee Member

William T. Bailey


The rate of suicide in the United States has increased considerably in recent years making research of suicidal behaviors an important avenue of study. Yet the rate of increase has been inconsistent across demographic variables such as gender, age, and ethnicity, making it difficult to determine risk factors and predictors of suicidal behavior. Previous studies have conflicting results as to whether or not it is possible to determine risk factors by measuring attitudes towards suicide, and whether or not certain demographic variables correlate with attitudes toward suicidal behavior. This study investigates attitudes toward suicidal behavior and demographic variables in order to help clarify research.

One-hundred-and-forty-six college students, ages 17 to 45 enrolled in introductory psychology or sociology courses or involved in Afro American minority groups at Eastern Illinois University and Middle Tennessee State University completed The Suicide Attitude Vignette Experience as modified by Lester, Guerriero, and Watcher (1991), a demographic questionnaire developed for this study, and four questions relating to exposure to suicide.

Results indicate that when an individual is not active in their religion and they view suicide as rational, they will tend to view suicide as appropriate. Results also indicate that when an individual is white, reports being active in their religion, and views suicide as appropriate they will tend to view suicide as rational. In addition religious activity and gender alone were not significantly related to either subscale, nor were any significant correlations found between the cumulative exposure scores and either subscale of the SAVE. Limitations and implications of these findings are discussed.