Self and other perceptions of suicidal desire: The role of informants in the measurement of perceived burdensomeness

Date

2015-12

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Abstract

The interpersonal-psychological theory of suicidal behavior indicates that individuals die by suicide if they have both the desire and the ability to engage in suicidal behavior. The perceived burdensomeness aspect of suicidal desire suggests that individuals perceive that they impart more burden than is actually experienced by close informants (e.g., family members, friends). In previous studies, low self-esteem (LSE) was associated with self-depreciating meta-informant discrepancies, meaning that participants' beliefs about how they would be rated by informants (i.e., their metaperceptions) were less favorable than informants' actual ratings. The current study sought to determine if the previously identified association between LSE and self-depreciation would be evident when metaperceptions of burdensomeness were evaluated. Study hypotheses were tested in a sample of 134 college undergraduate/informant dyads using difference score analyses, negative binomial regression, and nonparametric bootstrapping. Results suggested that participants' self-perceptions of their burdensomeness were most often congruent with informant perceptions, but when a misjudgment in the perception of a participant’s burden to his or her informant occurred, it appeared to trend towards the direction predicted (i.e., overestimation of one’s burdensomeness to the informant). Similarly, participants’ views about how their burden was experienced by informants (their metaperceptions of their burdensomeness) frequently matched informant perceptions, but when there was a mismatch between participants’ predictions of how they would be rated by informants and informants’ actual ratings, participants generally expected informants to view them as more burdensome than they did. Also, the higher percentage of meta-informant matches than self-informant matches evident in this sample suggested that some participants who correctly predicted how their informants rated their burdensomeness still provided self-reports of their burdensomeness that exceeded informant ratings. Participants’ LSE was not significantly associated with higher self-reported perceived burdensomeness. The findings associated with the present investigation should be viewed with caution, because the large, positive skew evident for both participant and informant reports of burdensomeness suggests that it may not be possible to disentangle the lack of variance in the data from true differences in participant and informant perception.

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Keywords

Perceived burdensomeness, Interpersonal theory of suicide, Informant, Metaperception

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