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Toward an understanding of late life suicidal behavior: The role of lifespan developmental theory

Fiske, A., & O’Riley, A. A. (2015). Toward an understanding of late life suicidal behavior: The role of lifespan developmental theory. Aging & Mental Health20(2), 123-130.

2 What is the purpose of the research? What question(s) does the author(s) have related to development?

The purpose of the research is to examine late-life suicidal behavior within the life span developmental theory context. The researchers expound on the implications of failure to compensate for reduced control over crucial dimensions of a person’s life on the risk of suicidal behavior.

The authors question several concepts related to life span developmental theory and aging:

  • If failure to adapt to age-related reductions in control opportunities increases the risk for life suicidal behavior, why do some individuals fail to adapt this way?
  • What is the impact of selective or compensatory means of meeting goals in suicidal ideation in older adults with health problems?
  • Why is suicidal behavior high among older adults?

3 Explain how the research results address the authors’ research question(s)?

On relatedness between failure to adapt to age-related reductions in control opportunities and risk for late-life suicidal behavior, the researchers posit that individuals with a cognitive or personality style characterized by a high need for control may particularly be unwilling to diversify their strategies for attaining goals when opportunities for control become limited.

The authors point at cross-sectional evidence of adults with health-related functional limitations to argue that several control measures are associated with reduced suicidal ideation. Finally, using life span developmental theory concepts, the authors explain why aging increases the risk of suicidal behavior among those unable to use selective or compensatory control measures.

4 What are the findings of the research?

The central argument is that the motivational theory of lifespan development is relevant to late-life suicide. It explains why opportunities by most old adults to control important aspects of their life diminish in late life, corresponding to the decline in cognitive, physical, and other factors. In old age, most individuals employ compensatory strategies to meet goals, and those that fail to achieve this are at high risk for suicidal behavior.

5 What are three societal negative and/or positive implications of the research?

A. The research offers crucial insight on the rise in suicidal behavior among the elderly.

B. It explains the potential control measures that individuals can use to reduce suicidal ideation in late old age.

C. The research is a mere summary of crucial data but does not show exact data collection methods. It limits the generalizability of the findings.

 6 Provide a question that you would ask the author(s). Describe three ways to improve the research.

Question: While the research indicates that in old adults, depression plays a key role in mediating suicidal ideation, what are the predictive patterns of suicidal thoughts and behavior for the young?

A. The authors should have provided more primary data and data analysis to support the conclusions.

B. The authors could have explained the demographical differences to account for suicidal ideation rates among people of various backgrounds.

C. The authors should have relied more on updated references. Some texts used are as old as the 1980s and 90s.

7 Explain how can this research be used in real-world situations? What are three benefits to society and how can the research apply to daily living?

Social workers and health care policymakers can use this research to enhance their understanding of potential causes of high suicidal ideation among the elderly within society. Such insight can also help focus more resources on better therapy such as cognitive therapy, problem-solving therapy, and mindfulness-based approaches to promote socio-emotional adaptation to aging.

A. Understanding the significance of effective control strategies in old age can help adults prepare in advance for this critical stage of life and cope with age-related limitations.

B. We have old adults in our families and communities. Understanding the triggers of suicidal ideation, such as the inability to exact control over certain aspects of their lives, can be crucial in reducing suicide rates.

C. Knowing how to use compensatory strategies, such as modifying goals and seeking help, can result in successful aging. It could benefit society and reduce premature mortality.

Reflection Paper

Fiske and O’Riley (2015) present a critical societal issue in their research. The rise in suicide rates has been alarming globally, and many countries have experienced even high rates than others. It is much vital to analyze this trend to uncover the underlying causes. Among the most affected old adults, the research indicates that major depressive disorder is one of the notable triggers. Old age comes with numerous challenges, some of which the authors successfully captured in their work. But, we have to pay greater attention to the increased failure of the elderly to control their declining internal resources, which calls for control measures.

These measures (selective and compensatory) enable this group of people to overcome the unfavorable effects of failure to deal with age-related limitations, which increase the risk of suicides. The research discusses the concept of life span development, detailing the various changes that an individual may pass through and which play a role in progressing suicidal ideation. I believe it is an important piece of information for policymakers and health care workers because it can contribute to better health outcomes.

There are some significant shortcomings in the research. Notably, the authors did not present striking data to support the hypotheses. As a result, it is somehow hard for the reader to synthesize and get the bigger picture. If there were better result analysis to point to the findings, assuredly, this research could have been even much more significant.

Consequently, the validity of the findings/conclusion is questionable. Could the authors have used more primary data sources? What if they factored in different demographical factors, such as race and religion? Would the results change? These questions present a few notable gaps in the research that could be factored into future research to provide a much more significant conclusion on this research topic. The findings, however, could become a key for future research on this topic.

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