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J Consult Clin Psychol. 2008 Feb;76(1):63-71. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.76.1.63.

Nonsuicidal self-injury in young adolescent girls: moderators of the distress-function relationship.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA. lori.hilt@yale.edu


This study examined nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) in a community sample of young adolescent girls. Potential moderators of the relationships between different types of distress (internal and interpersonal) and particular functions of NSSI (emotion-regulation and interpersonal) were explored. Participants included 94 girls (49% Hispanic; 25% African American) ages 10-14 years who completed questionnaires regarding self-injurious behavior and other constructs of interest. Fifty-six percent of girls (n = 53) reported engaging in NSSI during their lifetime, including 36% (n = 34) in the past year. Internal distress (depressive symptoms) was associated with engaging in NSSI for emotion-regulation functions, and rumination moderated the relationship between depressive symptoms and engaging in NSSI for automatic positive reinforcement. Interpersonal distress (peer victimization) was associated with engaging in NSSI for social reinforcement, and quality of peer communication moderated this relationship. The clinical implications of these findings include designing preventions that address the particular contexts of self-injurious behavior.

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