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Non-Suicidal Self-Injury in Swedish Adolescents: Prevalence, Characteristics, Functions and Associations With Childhood Adversities
Linköping University, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Division of Clinical Sciences. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), such as intentionally cutting, burning or hitting oneself, is a behavior with potentially detrimental consequences and empirical studies are necessary to gain knowledge of how to prevent NSSI in adolescents. The aims of this thesis were to investigate the prevalence, methods, characteristics and functions of NSSI in a large community sample of Swedish adolescents, and to examine the relationship between NSSI and adverse life events and trauma symptoms. All empirical studies had a cross-sectional design and were based on 3,097 adolescents in the county of Östergötland, aged 15-17 years, in their first year of high school. Participating school classes were selected through a randomization process and administered self-report questionnaires.

In study I (n = 3,060) a single item NSSI question resulted in a prevalence rate of 17.2%, while 35.6% of adolescents reported having engaged in NSSI at least once during the past year when given a checklist. The most commonly reported type of NSSI in this sample was “bit yourself”, followed by “hit yourself on purpose”, “erased your skin” and “cut or carved on your skin”. Applying the proposed DSM-5 diagnostic criteria of NSSI resulted in a prevalence rate of 6.7%. Results in study II (n = 2,964) showed that after controlling for gender, parental occupation and living conditions, adolescents with no self-injurious behavior reported the lowest level of adversities and trauma symptoms, while adolescents with both NSSI and suicide attempts (5.7%) reported the highest levels compared to those with only NSSI or a suicide attempt. Adolescents reporting frequent NSSI reported more adversities and trauma symptoms than those with less frequent NSSI. Automatic functions, such as affect regulation, self-punishment and feeling-generation, were the most commonly reported functions of NSSI. Attempts in study I to confirm Nock and Prinstein’s (2004) four-factor model of underlying factors of NSSI functions resulted in a close to acceptable fit. An attempt to refine the factor analysis on this community sample of Swedish adolescents, using Mplus with cross-validation, was made in study III (n = 836). An exploratory factor analysis resulted in a three-factor model (social influence, automatic functions and non-conformist peer identification), which was validated in confirmatory analysis. In order to adhere more closely to learning theory and the concept of negative and positive reinforcement, the third factor was then split into two factors, resulting in a four-factor model (social influence, automatic functions, peer identification and avoiding demands), which showed excellent fit to the data in the confirmatory factor analysis. Study IV (n = 816) showed that NSSI frequency, gender (female), self-reported experience of emotional and physical abuse, having made a suicide attempt, prolonged illness or handicap and symptoms of depression and dissociation were significant predictors in the final model of the automatic functions, indicating that these variables are important in understanding the mechanisms underlying the need to engage in NSSI to regulate emotions, generate feelings, gain control or to self-punish. Symptoms of depression and dissociation mediated the relationship between sexual, physical and emotional abuse and the automatic  functions. Furthermore, frequency of NSSI, gender, emotional abuse, prolonged illness or handicap and symptoms of depression uniquely predicted automatic functions but not social functions. Self-reported experience of physical abuse, having made a suicide attempt, symptoms of anxiety and dissociation were significant in the final model of social functions, i.e., performing NSSI to influence or  communicate with others, to avoid demands or to identify with peers. Of these, symptoms of anxiety were uniquely associated with social functions. Symptoms of anxiety and dissociation mediated the relationship between physical abuse and social functions of NSSI.

Taken together, this thesis has shown that NSSI is prevalent in Swedish adolescents and findings contribute to the discussion of a potential NSSI diagnosis. It is important to consider the effect of different types of negative life events and trauma symptoms in relation to NSSI in adolescents. Assessing the specific reinforcing functions of NSSI and the underlying factor structure can be helpful in developing functionally relevant individualized treatment.

Abstract [sv]

Självskadebeteende, t ex att avsiktligt skära, bränna eller slå sig själv är potentiellt skadliga beteenden. Empiriska studier är viktiga för att kunna förebygga självskadebeteende hos ungdomar. Föreliggande avhandling syftar till att undersöka självskadebeteendets förekomst, funktion, karaktäristik och metoder hos svenska ungdomar, samt att undersöka relationen till negativa livshändelser och traumasymptom. Samtliga fyra empiriska studier hade en tvärsnittsdesign och baserades på 3,097 ungdomar i Östergötland, 15-17 år, i gymnasieskolans årskurs 1, vars skolklasser valts ut slumpmässigt och som besvarat självskattningsformulär.

I studie I (n = 3,060) angav 17.2%, som svar på en allmän självskadefråga, att de avsiktligt skadat sig under sin livstid. När ungdomarna däremot svarade på en checklista med olika självskadebeteenden, angav 35.6% att de hade ägnat sig åt någon typ av självskadebeteende under det senaste året. De vanligaste metoderna var att avsiktligt bita eller slå sig själv, sudda på huden och att skära sig. De föreslagna diagnoskriterierna för icke-suicidal självskada i DSM-5 resulterade i en förekomst av 6.7%. Studie II (n = 2,964) visade att ungdomar utan självskadebeteende rapporterade de lägsta antalet negativa livshändelser och traumasymptom, medan de med erfarenhet av både självskadebeteende och självmordsförsök (5.7%) rapporterade de högsta antalen jämfört med de med endast självskadebeteende eller självmordsförsök. Ungdomar med fler självskadetillfällen rapporterade fler negativa livshändelser och traumasymptom än de med färre tillfällen. Automatiska/intrapersonella funktioner, såsom att generera och reglera känslor samt att straffa sig själv var de vanligaste funktionerna som rapporterades. Försök att konfirmera Nock och Prinsteins (2004) fyrfaktormodell av underliggande funktionsfaktorer i studie I resulterade i en modell med nära acceptabel passform. Ett försök att förbättra faktoranalysen på den aktuella urvalsgruppen gjordes med Mplus i studie III (n = 836). En exploratorisk analys resulterade i en trefaktormodell (interpersonell påverkan, automatisk/intrapersonell funktion samt ”icke-konformistisk” kamratidentifikation), vilken även validerades i den konfirmatoriska analysen. Med utgångspunkt i inlärningsteori och begreppen negativ och positiv förstärkning delades därefter den tredje faktorn upp i två faktorer. Det resulterade i en fyrfaktormodell (interpersonell påverkan, automatisk/intrapersonell funktion, kamratidentifikation samt undvikande av krav). Fyrfaktormodellen visade utmärkt passform i den konfirmatoriska analysen. Studie IV (n = 816) visade att självskadebeteendets frekvens, kön (flicka), självrapporterade erfarenheter av psykisk och fysisk misshandel, självmordsförsök, kronisk sjukdom eller handikapp under uppväxten, liksom symptom på depression och dissociation predicerade automatiska självskadefunktioner. De variablerna är potentiellt viktiga för förståelsen av de mekanismer som är involverade när ungdomar skadar sig själva för att generera och reglera känslor, få kontroll, liksom att straffa sig själva. Relationen mellan psykisk och fysisk misshandel och de automatiska funktionerna medierades av symptom på depression och dissociation. Självskadefrekvens, kön, psykisk misshandel, sjukdom/handikapp och symptom på depression predicerade enbart automatiska men inte sociala funktioner. Självrapporterad fysisk misshandel, självmordsförsök, symptom på ångest och dissociation var signifikanta prediktorer för de sociala funktionerna (att påverka/kommunicera med andra, undvika krav eller identifiera sig med kamrater). Ångestsymptom var unikt associerade med sociala funktioner. Symptom på ångest och dissociation medierade vidare relationen mellan fysisk misshandel och sociala självskadefunktioner.

Sammanfattningsvis visade resultaten att självskadebeteende är vanligt förekommande hos ungdomar. Avhandlingen bidrar med empiri till diskussionen gällande icke suicidal självskada i DSM-5. Det är viktigt att beakta olika negativa livserfarenheter och traumasymptom i relation till självskadebeteende hos ungdomar. Att undersöka självskadebeteendets funktioner kan vara kliniskt hjälpsamt för att utveckla och utvärdera individuellt anpassade behandlingsstrategier.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2014. , 89 p.
Series
Linköping University Medical Dissertations, ISSN 0345-0082 ; 1416
Keyword [en]
Non-suicidal self-injury, adolescents, prevalence, functions, adversities, trauma symptoms
National Category
Clinical Science Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-110421DOI: 10.3384/diss.diva-110421ISBN: 978-91-7519-250-5 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-110421DiVA: diva2:745826
Public defence
2014-10-03, Berzeliussalen, Campus US, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-09-11 Created: 2014-09-11 Last updated: 2015-01-27Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Prevalence and Function of Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) in a Community Sample of Adolescents, Using Suggested DSM-5 Criteria for a Potential NSSI Disorder
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Prevalence and Function of Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) in a Community Sample of Adolescents, Using Suggested DSM-5 Criteria for a Potential NSSI Disorder
2013 (English)In: Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, ISSN 0091-0627, E-ISSN 1573-2835, Vol. 41, no 5, 759-773 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Previous prevalence rates of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) in adolescents have varied considerably. In the present cross-sectional study, prevalence rates, characteristics and functions of NSSI were assessed in a large randomized community sample consisting of 3,060 (50.5 % female) Swedish adolescents aged 15-17 years. The suggested criteria for NSSI disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, (DSM-5) were used to assess prevalence rates with the aim of arriving at a more precise estimate. Out of the whole sample, 1,088 (35.6 %) adolescents (56.2 % female) reported at least one episode of NSSI during the last year, of which 205 (6.7 %) met suggested DSM-5 criteria for a potential NSSI disorder diagnosis. The NSSI disorder diagnosis was significantly more common in girls (11.1 % vs. 2.3 %, χ (2) (1, N = 3046) = 94.08, p < 0.001, cOR = 5.43, 95 % CI [3.73, 7.90]). The NSSI disorder group consisted of significantly more smokers and drug users compared to adolescents with NSSI that did not meet DSM-5 criteria for NSSI disorder, and also differed concerning demographic variables. A confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted on reported functions of NSSI, with the aim of validating Nock and Prinstein's (Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 72:885-890, 2004, Journal of Abnormal Psychology 114:140-146, 2005) four-factor model on a Swedish community sample, resulting in a close to acceptable fit. A two-factor model (social and automatic reinforcement) resulted in a slightly better fit. The most frequently reported factors were positive and negative automatic reinforcement. A majority of functions were significantly more often reported by girls than boys. The implications of the suggested DSM-5 criteria and reported functions are discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2013
Keyword
Non-suicidal self-injury disorder, DSM-5, Prevalence, Function, Adolescents
National Category
Psychiatry
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-91375 (URN)10.1007/s10802-013-9712-5 (DOI)000320279900007 ()23344701 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2013-04-23 Created: 2013-04-23 Last updated: 2014-09-11
2. A Comparison of Adolescents Engaging in Self-Injurious Behaviors With and Without Suicidal Intent: Self-Reported Experiences of Adverse Life Events and Trauma Symptoms
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A Comparison of Adolescents Engaging in Self-Injurious Behaviors With and Without Suicidal Intent: Self-Reported Experiences of Adverse Life Events and Trauma Symptoms
2013 (English)In: Journal of Youth and Adolescence, ISSN 0047-2891, E-ISSN 1573-6601, Vol. 42, no 8, 1257-1272 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Research comparing adolescents engaging in suicidal and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), both separately and in combination, is still at an early stage. The purpose of the present study was to examine overlapping and distinguishable features in groups with different types of self-injurious behaviors, using a large community sample of 2,964 (50.6 % female) Swedish adolescents aged 15-17 years. Adolescents were grouped into six categories based on self-reported lifetime prevalence of self-injurious behaviors. Of the total sample, 1,651 (55.7 %) adolescents reported no self-injurious behavior, 630 (21.2 %) reported NSSI 1-4 times, 177 (6.0 %) reported NSSI 5-10 times, 311 (10.5 %) reported NSSI a parts per thousand yen 11 times, 26 (0.9 %) reported lifetime prevalence of suicide attempt and 169 (5.7 %) adolescents reported both NSSI and suicide attempt. After controlling for gender, parental occupation and living conditions, there were significant differences between groups. Pairwise comparisons showed that adolescents with both NSSI and suicide attempt reported significantly more adverse life events and trauma symptoms than adolescents with only NSSI, regardless of NSSI frequency. The largest differences (effect sizes) were found for interpersonal negative events and for symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress. Adolescents with frequent NSSI reported more adversities and trauma symptoms than those with less frequent NSSI. There were also significant differences between all the NSSI groups and adolescents without any self-injurious behavior. These findings draw attention to the importance of considering the cumulative exposure of different types of adversities and trauma symptoms when describing self-injurious behaviors, with and without suicidal intent.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2013
Keyword
Non-suicidal self-injury, Suicide, Adolescents, Adverse life events, Trauma symptoms
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-96719 (URN)10.1007/s10964-012-9872-6 (DOI)000321973800012 ()
Available from: 2013-08-23 Created: 2013-08-23 Last updated: 2014-09-11Bibliographically approved
3. Functions of Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analyses in a Large Community Sample of Adolescents
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Functions of Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analyses in a Large Community Sample of Adolescents
2015 (English)In: Psychological Assessment, ISSN 1040-3590, E-ISSN 1939-134X, Vol. 27, no 1, 302-313 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Given that nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is prevalent in adolescents, structured assessment is an essential tool to guide treatment interventions. The Functional Assessment of Self-Mutilation (FASM) is a self-report scale that assesses frequency, methods, and functions of NSSI. FASM was administered to 3,097 Swedish adolescents in a community sample. With the aim of examining the underlying factor structure of the functions of FASM in this sample, the adolescents with NSSI who completed all function items (n = 836) were randomly divided into 2 subsamples for cross-validation purposes. An exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was followed by a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) using the mean and variance adjusted weighted least squares (WLSMV) estimator in the Mplus statistical modeling program. The results of the EFA suggested a 3-factor model (social influence, automatic functions, and nonconformist peer identification), which was supported by a good fit in the CFA. Factors differentiated between social/interpersonal and automatic/intrapersonal functions. Based on learning theory and the specific concepts of negative and positive reinforcement, the nonconformist peer identification factor was then split into 2 factors (peer identification and avoiding demands). The resulting 4-factor model showed an excellent fit. Dividing social functions into separate factors (social influence, peer identification, and avoiding demands) can be helpful in clinical practice, where the assessment of NSSI functions is an important tool with direct implications for treatment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
American Psychological Association (APA), 2015
Keyword
Non-suicidal self-injury, assessment, adolescents, functions, factor analysis
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Clinical Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-110420 (URN)10.1037/pas0000034 (DOI)25558962 (PubMedID)
Note

At the time for thesis presentation publication was in status: Manuscript

Available from: 2014-09-11 Created: 2014-09-11 Last updated: 2016-09-23Bibliographically approved
4. A cross-sectional study of adolescent non-suicidal self-injury: support for a specific distress-function relationship
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A cross-sectional study of adolescent non-suicidal self-injury: support for a specific distress-function relationship
2014 (English)In: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, ISSN 1753-2000, Vol. 8, no 23Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

BACKGROUND: This study has investigated the specific relationship between childhood adversities, individual trauma symptoms and the functions of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). The aim was to examine whether different self-reported adverse experiences and trauma symptoms predict the need to engage in NSSI, either to regulate emotions or to communicate with and influence others.

METHOD: The participants were a community sample of 816 adolescents aged 15-17 years with NSSI. Hierarchical multiple regression was used, controlling for NSSI frequency and gender. The dependent variables were the automatic and social functions of NSSI, respectively. The predictors entered in the model were several different maltreatment and adversity experiences as well as individual trauma symptoms. Mediation analyses were also performed using the bootstrapping method with bias-corrected confidence estimates.

RESULTS: Frequency of NSSI, gender (female), emotional abuse, prolonged illness or handicap during upbringing and symptoms of depression uniquely predicted the automatic functions of NSSI in the final regression model, but not the social functions. Symptoms of anxiety uniquely predicted social but not automatic functions. Having experienced physical abuse, having made a suicide attempt and symptoms of dissociation were significant predictors in both final models. The model for automatic functions explained more of the variance (62%) than the social model (28%). The relationship between childhood emotional, physical and sexual abuse and performing NSSI for automatic reasons was mediated by symptoms of depression and dissociation. The relationship between physical abuse and the social functions of NSSI was mediated by symptoms of anxiety and dissociation.

CONCLUSIONS: It is important to understand the specific context in which NSSI has developed and is maintained. Experiences of emotional abuse and symptoms of depression could guide clinical work in the direction of emotion regulation skills since in this study these variables were uniquely associated with the need to engage in NSSI to regulate emotions, to self-punish or to generate feelings. The presence of physical abuse, a suicide attempt and symptoms of dissociation could alert clinicians to a broad treatment approach since they were associated with performing NSSI to regulate both social and automatic experiences.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
BioMed Central, 2014
National Category
Psychiatry Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-110419 (URN)10.1186/1753-2000-8-23 (DOI)25110519 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2014-09-11 Created: 2014-09-11 Last updated: 2015-01-27Bibliographically approved

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  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
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  • en-GB
  • en-US
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  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
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Output format
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