Suicide Risk in Postpartum Mothers: A Test of the Kin-Selection Hypothesis of Suicidality

Author: Hayley Mulford
Major: Psychology
Approved: Spring 2019
Status: Completed

This study evaluates two hypotheses that can be used to make predictions about post-partum depression and suicidality: (1) The kin-selection hypothesis of suicidality, and (2) the bargaining hypothesis of suicidality. According to the analytical rumination hypothesis, an individual goes into depression as a tool to systematically solve problems that threaten their inclusive fitness (Andrews & Thomson, 2009). The kin-selection hypothesis and bargaining hypothesis make competing predictions regarding the problems that are solved by proposed adaptations promoting suicidal behavior. Specifically, the kin-selection hypothesis suggests that suicide is evolved to benefit kin in periods of severe resource scarcity, whereas the bargaining hypothesis suggests that nonfatal suicidal gestures evolved to benefit the suicidal individual directly by soliciting support. In the current study, the analytical rumination hypothesis and bargaining hypothesis are used to generate distinct predictions regarding the circumstances under which postpartum mothers—a group that is typically vulnerable to depression, but protected against suicidality—would experience suicidality. Participants completed a questionnaire regarding their postpartum experiences, postpartum depression, and suicidality. Results indicate that burdensomeness was the only significant predictor for both suicide attempts and severe attempts. This provides support that the kin-selection model more strongly predicts suicidality.

Mulford-Postpartum Mothers and Suicide (paper)

Mulford-Postpartum Mothers and suicide (presentation)