Parental Employment Status in the Relationship between Traumatic Exposure and Adolescent Suicide Risk


  • Ancel Andrew George University of the Free State
  • Phindile Elina Mbhele University of the Free State



suicide risk, stressful life, traumatic exposure, adolescents, parental employment status


Parent’s socio-economic status is considered a protective factor in families, if it enables family members to access resources and to escape from environmental hardships and if it acts as a buffer against suicide behaviours. This study aimed to investigate what effect the parental employment status has on traumatised adolescents and their suicide risk. Using a cross-sectional and correlational design, 989 grade 10 learners from nine schools in the Free State province were selected. A self-compiled biographical questionnaire, the suicide ideation questionnaire for adolescents, and the stressful life events questionnaire were used to gather information. A hierarchical multiple regression analysis investigated whether parental employment status moderates or mediates the relationship between stressful life exposure and suicide risk. Results indicated a significant relationship (p = 0.000) between stressful life exposure and suicide risk. However, the parental employment status does not moderate the relationship between stressful life exposure and suicide risk. Future studies should explore employment differences, as career choices may create different contexts for support and development of adolescents. 


Metrics Loading ...


American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Amoateng, A. Y., and I. Kalule-Sabiti. 2013. “Social Structure and Sexual Behaviour of Black African Adolescents in the North West Province, South Africa.†South African Review of Sociology 44 (1): 131–157.

Atwoli, L., D. J. Stein, D. R. Williams, K. A. Mclaughlin, M. Petukhova, R. C. Kessler, and K. C. Koenen. 2013. “Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in South Africa: Analysis from the South African Stress and Health Study.†Biomedical Central Psychiatry 13:182.

Bacikova-Sleskova, M., A. M. Geckova, J. P. van Dijk, J. W. Groothoff, and S. A. Reijneveld. 2011. “Parental Support and Adolescents’ Health in the Context of Parental Employment Status†Journal of Adolescence 34 (1): 141–149.

Beautrais, A. L. 2000. “Risk Factors for Suicide and Attempted Suicide among Young People.†The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 34 (3): 420–436.

Beekrum, R., S. R. Valjee, and S. J. Collings. 2011. “An Emic Perspective on the Dynamics of Non-fatal Suicidal Behaviour in a Sample of South African Indian Women.†South African Journal of Psychology 41 (1): 66–73.

Blum, R., M. Sudhinaraset, and M. R. Emerson. 2012. “Youth at Risk: Suicidal Thoughts and Attempts in Vietnam, China, and Taiwan.†Journal of Adolescent Health 50 (3): 37–44.

Borges, G., C. Benjet, M. E. Medina-Mora, R. Orozco, B. E. Molnar, and M. K. Nock. 2008. “Traumatic Events and Suicide-related Outcomes among Mexico City Adolescents.†Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 49 (6): 654–666.

Brislin, R. W. 1986. “The Wording and Translation of Research Instruments.†In Field Methods in Cross-cultural Psychology, edited by W. J. Lonner, and J. W. Berry, 137–164. 2nd ed. Newbury Park: Sage.

Bronfenbrenner, U. 1994. “Ecological Models of Human Development.†In International Encyclopaedia of Education, edited by T. Husen, and T. N. Postlethwaite, 1643–47. 2nd ed. Oxford: Elsevier.

Bronfenbrenner, U., and P. A. Morris. 2006. “The Biological Model of Human Development.†In Handbook of Child Psychology: Theoretical Models of Development, editors in chief W. Damon, and R. M. Lerner, and edited by R. M. Lerner. 6th ed. Hoboken: Wiley.

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2015. “Understanding suicide† (accessed 10 September 2015).

Cohen, J., P. Cohen, S. G. West, and L. S. Aiken. 2003. Applied Multiple Regression/Correlation Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. 3rd ed. Mahwah: Lawrence.

Conger, R. D., and S. J. Dogan. 2007. Social Class and Socialization in Families. New York: Guilford.

Cook, R. D., and S. Weisberg. 1982. Residuals and Influence in Regression. New York: Chapman and Hall.

Craig, G. J., and W. L. Dunn. 2010. Understanding Human Development. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education.

Diekstra, R. F., and N. Garnefski. 1995. “On the Nature, Magnitude, and Causality of Suicidal Behaviors: An International Perspective.†Suicide and Life-threatening Behavior 25 (1): 36–57.

Donson, H., Y. Alley, M. Breda, A. Krige, H. Laher, U. Lau, R. Lekoba, L. Lourie, B. Mathebula, J. Mtshali, I. Neethling, M. Prinsloo, K. Ross, and L. A. Swart. 2008. “A Profile of Fatal Injuries in South Africa 2007: The 9th Annual Report of the National Injury Mortality Surveillance System (NIMSS)â€. South African Medical Research Council Cape Town, (accessed 10 October 2014).

Du Plessis, E. D. 2012. “Psychosocial Factors as Predictors of Suicidal Ideation amongst Adolescents in the Free State Province: A Cross-cultural Study.†PhD thesis, University of the Free State.

Elkind, D. 1998. All Grown Up and No Place to Go: Teenagers in Crisis. Reading: Perseus.

Flannery, D. J., M. I. Singer, M. van Dulmen, J. Kretschmar., and L. Belliston. 2007. “Exposure to Violence, Mental Health, and Violent Behaviour.†The Cambridge Handbook of Violent Behaviour and Aggression 306–321.

Foxcroft, C., and G. Roodt. 2005. Introduction to Psychological Assessment in the South African Context. 2nd ed. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.

George, A. A. 2005. “The Influence of Psychosocial Factors and Resources on Suicidal Ideation of Adolescents.†Master’s dissertation, University of the Free State.

George, A. A. 2009. “Risk and Resilience in Adolescent Suicidal Ideation.†PhD thesis, University of the Free State.

George, A. A., and H. S. van den Berg. 2012. “The Influence of Psychosocial Variables on Adolescent Suicidal Ideation.†Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health 24 (1): 45–57.

Goodman, L., C. Corcoran, K. Turner, N. Yuan, and B. L. Green. 1998. “Assessing Traumatic Event Exposure: General Issues and Preliminary Findings for the Stressful Life Events Screening Questionnaire.†Journal of Traumatic Stress 11 (3): 521–542.

Griggs, J., and R. Walker. 2008. The Cost of Child Poverty for Individuals and Society: A Literature Review. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Han, W. J., D. P. Miller, and J. Waldfogel. 2010. “Parental Work Schedules and Adolescent Risky Behaviors.†Developmental Psychology 46 (5): 1245–67.

Hanssens, L. 2016. “The Impact of Suicide Contagion and Intergenerational Segregation on Youth and Young Adults in Remote Indigenous Communities in Northern Territory, Australia.†Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal 40:38–47.;dn=787819101527890;res=IELAPA

Hicks, B. M., U. Vaidyanathan, and C. J. Patrick. 2010. “Validating Female Psychopathy Subtypes: Differences in Personality, Antisocial and Violent Behavior, Substance Abuse, Trauma, and Mental Health.†Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment 1 (1): 38–57.

Holtman, Z., S. Shelmerdine, L. London, and A. Flisher. 2011. “Suicide in a Poor Rural Community in the Western Cape, South Africa: Experiences of Five Suicide Attempters and Their Families.†South African Journal of Psychology 41 (3): 300–309.

Hunt, K. L., P. M. Martens, and H. M. Belcher. 2011. “Risky Business: Trauma Exposure and Rate of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in African American Children and Adolescents.†Journal of Traumatic Stress 24 (3): 365–369.

Johnson, E. S. 2008. “Ecological Systems and Complexity Theory: Toward an Alternative Model of Accountability in Education.†An International Journal of Complexity and Education 5 (1): 1–10.

Kalichman, S. C., L. C. Simbayi, S. Jooste, D. Cain, and C. Cherry. 2006. “Sensation Seeking, Alcohol Use and Sexual Behaviours among Sexually Transmitted Infection Clinic Patients in Cape Town, South Africa.†Journal of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 20 (3): 298–304.

Kaminer, D., B. du Plessis, A. Benjamin, and A. Hardy. 2013. “Exposure to Violence across Multiple Sites among Young South African Adolescents.†Journal of Peace Psychology 1078–1919.

Kaplan, H. I., B. J. Sadock, and J. A. Grebb. 1994. Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioural Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry. 7th ed. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.

Kernier, N. 2012. “Suicide Attempt During Adolescence: A Way of Killing the ‘Infans’ and a Quest for Individuation-separation.†Crisis 33 (5): 290–300.

Kerr, D. C. R., L. D. Owen, and D. M. Capaldi. 2008. “Suicidal Ideation and its Recurrence in Boys and Men from Early Adolescence to Early Adulthood: An Event History Analysis.†Journal of Abnormal Psychology 117 (3): 625–636.

King, C. A. 1997. “Suicidal Behavior in Adolescenceâ€. In Review of Suicidology, edited by R. W. Maria, M. M. Silverman, and S. S. Canetto, 61–95. New York: Guilford Press.

Kruger, A. H. 2010. “Risk Factors and the Availability of Social Resources as Variables Influencing Suicidal Ideation among South African and British Adolescents.†Master’s dissertation, University of the Free State.

Kutner, M., C. Nachtsheim, J. Neter, and W. Li. 2005. Applied Linear Statistical Models. 5th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Loots, S. 2008. “The Role of Exposure to Suicide and Coping Strategies in Suicidal Ideation of Adolescents.†Master’s dissertation, University of the Free State.

Makhubela, M. S. 2012. “Exposure to Domestic Violence and Identity Development among Adolescent University Students in South Africa.†Psychological Reports 110 (3): 798–800.

Maree, K., and J. Pietersen. 2007. “Sampling.†In First Steps in Research, edited by K. Maree, 172–180. Pretoria: Van Schaik.

Mashego, T. B., and S. N. Madu. 2009. “Suicide-related Behaviours among Secondary School Adolescents in the Welkom and Bethlehem Areas of the Free State Province (South Africa).†South African Journal of Psychology 39 (4): 489–497.

McLoyd, V. 1990. “The Impact of Economic Hardship on Black Families and Children: Psychological Distress, Parenting and Socioemotional Development.†Child Development 61 (2): 311–346.

Montemayor, R., and M. D. Clayton. 2001. “Maternal Employment and Adolescent Development.†Theory Into Practice xxii (2): 112–118.

Moolman, R. 2013. “The Role of Coping in the Relationship between Adolescent Suicidal Ideation and Resilience.†Master’s dissertation, University of the Free State.

Mpiana, P. M., G. J. O. Marincowitz, S. Ragavan, and N. Malete. 2004. “’Why I Tried to Kill Myself’ – An Exploration of the Factors Contributing to Suicide in the Waterberg District.†South African Family Practice 46(7): 21–25.

Nduna, M., and R. Jewkes. 2012. “Disempowerment and Psychological Distress in the Lives of Young People in Eastern Cape, South Africa.†Journal of Child and Family Studies 21 (6): 1018–27.

Nduna, M., R. K. Jewkes, K. L. Dunkle, N. P. Shai, and I. Colman. 2010. “Associations between Depressive Symptoms, Sexual Behaviour and Relationship Characteristics: A Prospective Cohort Study of Young Women and Men in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.†Journal of the International AIDS Society 13:44.

NIMSS (National Injury Mortality Surveillance System). 2005. “A Profile of Fatal Injuries in South Africa (7th Annual Report).† (accessed 11 September 2013).

Nts’ekhe, P. M. M. 2008. “The Causes and the Impact of Suicide on Learners in a Maseru High School: An Introductory Perspective.†Master’s dissertation, University of the Free State.

Nunnally, J. C., and I. H. Bernstein. 1994. Psychometric Theory. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Nyanjaya, A. K., and M. J. Masango. 2012. “The Plight of Absent Fathers Caused by Migrant Work: Its Traumatic Impact on Adolescent Male Children in Zimbabwe.†AOSIS Open Journals 68 (1): 1–10. 10.4102/hts.v68i1.1004

Paulson, B. L., and R. D. Everall. 2001. “The Teen Suicide Research Project.†The Alberta Journal of Education Research XLVII (1): 91–94.

Pfeffer, C. R., R. Plutchik, M. S. Mizruchi, and R. Lipkins. 1986. “Suicidal Behaviour in Child Psychiatric Inpatients and Outpatients and in Nonpatients.†The American Journal of Psychiatry 143 (9): 1138–43.

Pienaar, J., and S. Rothmann. 2005. “Suicide Ideation in the South African Police Service.†South African Journal of Psychology 35 (1): 58–72.

Read, J. P., P. Ouimette, J. White, C. Colder, and S. Farrow. 2011. “Rates of DSM-IV-TR Trauma Exposure and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder among Newly Matriculated College Students,†American Psychology Association 3 (2): 148–156.

Reddy, S. P., S. James, R. Sewpaul, F. Koopman, N. I. Funani, S. Sifunda, J. Josie, P. Masuka, N. S. Kambaran, and R. G. Omardien. 2010. “Umthente Uhlaba Usamila – The Second South African Youth Risk Behaviour Survey 2008.†Pretoria: Medical Research Council. (accessed 21 August 2014).

Reddy, S, P., S. Panday, D. Swart, C. C. Jinabhai, S. L. Amosun, S. James, K. D. Monyeki, G. Stevens, N. Morejele, N. S. Kambaran, R. G. Omardien, and H. W. van den Borne. 2002. Umthenthe Uhlaba Usamila – The 1st South African Youth Risk Behaviour Survey. Cape Town: Medical Research Council.

Reynolds, W. M. 1988. Suicide Ideation Questionnaire: Professional Manual. Odessa: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Rushing, W. A. 1968. “Income, Unemployment, and Suicide: An Occupational Study.†The Sociological Quarterly 9 (4): 493–503.

Rutter, P. A., and A. E. Behrendt. 2004. “Adolescent Suicide Risk: Four Psychosocial Factors.†Adolescence 39 (154): 295–302.

SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group). 2015. “Teen Suicide.† (accessed 3 September 2015).

SAFMH (South African Federation for Mental Health). 2012–2013. “General Crisis Situations.† (accessed 5 March 2014).

Schlebusch, L. 2005. Suicidal Behaviour in South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.

Schlebusch, L., N. B. Vawda, and B. A. Bosch. 2003. “Suicidal Behavior in Black South Africans.†Crisis 24 (1): 24–28.

Seiffge-Krenke, I. 2004. “Adaptive and Maladaptive Coping Styles: Does Intervention Change Anything?†European Journal of Developmental Psychology 4:367–382.

Shilubane, H. N., R. A. C. Ruiter, A. E. R. Bos, B. van den Borne, S. James, and P. S. Reddy. 2012. “Psychosocial Determinants of Suicide Attempts among Black South African Adolescents: A Qualitative Analysis.†Journal of Youth Studies 15 (2): 177–189.

Sigelman, C. K., and E. A. Rider. 2012. Human Development across the Life Span. 7th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Simons, R. L., and P. I. Murphy. 1985. “Sex Differences in the Causes of Adolescent Suicide Ideation.†Journal of Youth and Adolescence 14 (5): 423–434.

Skegg, K. 2005. “Self-harm.†Lancet 366 (9495): 1471–83.

Sleskova, M., F. Salonna, A. M. Geckova, I. Nagyova, R. E. Stewart, J. P. van Dijk, and J. W. Groothoff. 2006. “Does Parental Unemployment Affect Adolescents’ Health?†Journal of Adolescent Health 38 (5): 527–535.

SPSS Incorporated. 2011. SPSS User’s Guide: Version 18.0. New York: SPSS.

Stark, K., G. Joubert, M. Struwig, M. Pretorius, N. van der Merwe, H. Botha, J. Kotzé, and D. Krynauw. 2010. “Suicide Cases Investigated at the State Mortuary in Bloemfontein, 2003–2007.†South African Family Practice 52 (4): 332–335.

Statistics South Africa. 2012. “Statistics South Africa: Census 2011.† (accessed 14 August 2017).

Statistics South Africa. 2014. “Quarterly Labour Force Survey: January to March Press Statements.† (accessed 14 August 2017).

Tomasula, J. L., L. M. Anderson, H. L. Littleton, and T. C. Riley-Tillman. 2012. “The Association between Sexual Assault and Suicidal Activity in a National Sample.†School Psychology Quarterly 27 (2): 109–119.

Visser, M., and A. G. Moleko. 2012. Community Psychology in South Africa. Cape Town: Van Schaik.

Wadsworth, M. E., and T. M. Achenbach. 2005. “Explaining the Link between Low Socioeconomic Status and Psychopathology: Testing Two Mechanisms of Social Causation Hypothesis.†Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 73 (6): 1146–53.

WHO (World Health Organization). 2016. “Mental Health: Suicide Data.† (accessed 14 August 2017).

Wingo, A. P., N. Fani, B. Bradley, and K. J. Ressler. 2010. “Psychological Resilience and Neurocognitive Performance in a Traumatized Community Sample.†Depression and Anxiety 27 (8): 768–774.

Wolmarans, L. 2010. “The Influence of Emotional Regulation on Suicidal Ideation of Adolescents.†Master’s dissertation, University of the Free State.

Xing, X. Y., F. B. Tao, Y. H. Wan, C. Xing, X. Y. Qi, J. H. Hao, P. Y. Su, H. F. Pan, and L. Huang. 2010. “Family Factors Associated with Suicide Attempt among Chinese Adolescent Students: A National Cross-sectional Survey.†Journal of Adolescent Health 46 (6): 529–599.

Yen, S., M. E. Pagano, M. T. Shea, C. M. Grilo, J. G. Gunderson, A. E. Skodol, T. H. McGlashan, C. A. Sanislow, D. S. Bender, and M. C. Zanarini. 2005. “Recent Life Events Preceding Suicide Attempts in a Personality Disorder Sample: Findings from the Collaborative Longitudinal Personality Disorders Study.†Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 73 (1): 99–105.

Yip, P. S., and L. H. Chiu. 1998. “Teenage Attempted Suicide in Hong Kong.†Crisis 19 (2): 67–72.


Additional Files



How to Cite

George, Ancel Andrew, and Phindile Elina Mbhele. 2017. “Parental Employment Status in the Relationship Between Traumatic Exposure and Adolescent Suicide Risk”. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development 29 (2):19 pages.



Received 2017-05-11
Accepted 2017-05-25
Published 2017-11-22