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General Strain Theory And Native Suicide

General strain theory (Agnew 1992) is one of the more empirically studied theories in criminology, and it shares similarities to Pearlin and colleagues’ theoretical work (1981) related to stress processes. In many ways, the heart of what Agnew and Pearlin are discussing in their theoretical frameworks is the ways in which stress can be understood and interpreted to explain negative behaviors or outcomes such as deviant behavior and poor mental health. Research is growing on the unique impact that stress may have on AI/AN populations (Nock et al. 2008). Stress is argued to be a mechanism that leads to alcohol use, depression, and PTSD for AI/ANs, which, in turn, increases risk for suicidal ideation (Kraus and Buffler 1979; Waldrop et al. 2007). (Jerreed Ivanich & Brent Teasdale (2018) Suicide Ideation among Adolescent American Indians: An Application of General Strain Theory, Deviant Behavior, 39:6, 702-715, DOI: 10.1080/01639625.2017.1304799).


Agnew’s general strain theory (now referred to as GST) states that strain is present in any of three conditions: 1) one is prevented from achieving positively valued goals, 2) one has positively valued stimuli removed or threatened to be removed from their possession, and 3) one is presented with or threatened to encounter a negative or noxious stimulus. When one or multiple strains are present in one’s life, it has the potential to produce negative feelings such as anger, anxiety, frustration, and depression. These negative emotions conceptually require different forms of coping, some of which is prosocial and some of which is antisocial. Stress has been found to contribute to poorer health practices, increased disease risk, mental health disorders, and suicide (Cohen, Janicki- Deverts, and Miller 2007; Pearlin 1999; Preston 2006). (Jerreed Ivanich & Brent Teasdale (2018) Suicide Ideation among Adolescent American Indians: An Application of General Strain Theory, Deviant Behavior, 39:6, 702-715, DOI: 10.1080/01639625.2017.1304799).


Specifically, studies have shown the stress process to be an effective tool in determining the predictors of suicide (Irwin and Austin 2013). Stack and Wasserman (2007) studied traditional strain concepts and also included economic strains in their study of suicide and found that 43 of the 62 cases studied were categorized as being under strain at the time of suicide. Thus, the work of Agnew creates a backdrop for understanding what predictive factors should be considered in this current study. The following sections will discuss in more detail the predictive factors commonly associated with suicide and suicidal ideation, from a GST framework. (Jerreed Ivanich & Brent Teasdale (2018) Suicide Ideation among Adolescent American Indians: An Application of General Strain Theory, Deviant Behavior, 39:6, 702-715, DOI: 10.1080/01639625.2017.1304799).


IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.


Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at www.iinii.org, or contact us at iinii@iinii.org or 1800-507-2502.




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