COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Factors distinguishing youth who report self-injurious behavior: a population-based sample

Lindsay A Taliaferro, Jennifer J Muehlenkamp, Iris W Borowsky, Barbara J McMorris, Kari C Kugler
Academic Pediatrics 2012, 12 (3): 205-13
22424698

OBJECTIVE: To identify factors distinguishing adolescents across 3 groups: no self-harm, nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) only, and NSSI and suicide attempt (NSSI + SA).

METHODS: Data were from the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey. The sample included 61,330 students in grades 9 and 12. Logistic regression analysis determined factors that best distinguished adolescents who reported NSSI from those who reported no self-harm, and adolescents who reported NSSI + SA. Final models were developed over 3 stages of analysis that tested the importance of variables within risk factor, protective factor, and co-occurring health-risk behavior domains.

RESULTS: For male and female subjects, factors that consistently distinguished youth who reported NSSI from those who reported no self-harm included depressive symptoms, hopelessness, physical abuse, less parent connectedness, running away from home, and maladaptive dieting behavior. Factors that distinguished the NSSI + SA group from the NSSI only group for both sexes were a mental health problem, depressive symptoms, hopelessness, physical abuse, and running away from home. Other factors, such as sexual abuse, were significant in models for males or females only. Hopelessness constituted the leading factor to increase the likelihood that youth who self-injured also attempted suicide.

CONCLUSIONS: Youth engaging in NSSI experience diverse psychosocial stressors and significant distress. Clinicians and school personnel are well-positioned to offer support to these youth. Furthermore, they can help address NSSI among youth by identifying those who self-injure early, assessing for hopelessness and suicidality, facilitating connections to prosocial adults, addressing maladaptive dieting behavior, and supporting runaway youth.

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