Do Extenuating Circumstances Influence African American Women's Attitudes Toward Suicide?

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lillian M. Range

Advisor Department



African American women (AAW) have lower rates of suicide than other women and men in the U.S., which may be due, in part, to their strong, anti-suicide beliefs. However, suicide attitudes can be influenced by extenuating circumstances, with some circumstances, such as terminal illness, softening negative attitudes toward suicide. The present investigation measured suicide attitudes in 192 AAW and European American women (EAW). Participants imagined themselves in extenuating circumstances and completed measures of suicide acceptability. Results indicated that both racial groups reported an increased likelihood to commit suicide when imagining a severe depression, regardless of religiosity. However, imagined extenuating circumstances did not influence general attitude toward suicide, nor did they influence attitudes toward a related concept, physician-assisted suicide. Religiosity was related to a negative attitude toward both behaviors, however, racial group did not differentiate attitudes toward either behavior. It appears that both African American and European American women remain steadfast in anti-suicide beliefs, regardless of circumstance.