Empathy: A Possible Moderator for Joiner's Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide

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Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Richard Wielkiewicz, Psychology


The present study's primary objective was to extend research examining Joiner's (2005) Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide by including a measure of empathy. Empathy refers to the capability to share another being's emotions and feeling. In the present study, I assessed levels of dispositional empathy as a possible moderator for the perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness from Joiner's theory. Empirical support strongly suggests these variables predict suicidal ideation. Because Joiner's variables of thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness require an individual to attempt to understand how others feel about them, levels of dispositional empathy may affect how a person interprets these variables. Due to few reports of suicidal ideation, analyses were conducted with a measure assessing reasons for living. Analyses suggested that empathy was significantly associated with reasons for living. However, empathy did not moderate the interaction between perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness, as predicted.