Cross-cultural attitudes towards suicide among South African Secondary School Pupils

  • K Peltzer
  • VI Cherian
  • L Cherian


Objective: To investigate the attitudes towards suicide among Grade II secondary school pupils among three cultural groups in South Africa.
Design: Cross sectional study.
Setting: Grade II Secondary school pupils chosen at random from three urban schools in Pietersburg. Participants: The sample included 366 pupils, 150 (41%) males and 216 (59%) females, the mean age was 19.3 years (SD =2.6), with a range from 17 to 24 years. The three cultural groups were 142 blacks, 112 whites and 112 Asians.
Main outcome measures: Socioeconomic and family background (14 items), suicide data (4 items), and a 30-item Multi-Attitude Suicide Tendency Scale for Adolescents (MAST-12).

Results: Suicide ideation and plans to commit suicide are the highest among Asians, closely followed by Whites and lowest among Black pupils. The frequency of attempted suicide was lower among Blacks (11.3%) than that among Asians (13.5%) and Whites (13%). Analysis
of variance indicated a significantly higher score among suicide attempters on attraction to death and repulsion by life and a  significantly lower score on attraction to life and repulsion
by death. Furthermore, this study found a significant correlation between total MAST, suicide ideation, suicide intent, history of completed suicide in family or friend, parents divorced, family size and suicide attempt.

Conclusion: This study found differential effects across diverse ethnocultural adolescent groups for suicidal ideation, plants and attempts. This gives indications on how suicide prevention programmes can be constructed in culture-congenial ways.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0012-835X