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PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e59955. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059955. Epub 2013 Mar 27.

Nonsuicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior: a latent class analysis among young adults.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. ch08za@brocku.ca


Although there is a general consensus among researchers that engagement in nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is associated with increased risk for suicidal behavior, little attention has been given to whether suicidal risk varies among individuals engaging in NSSI. To identify individuals with a history of NSSI who are most at risk for suicidal behavior, we examined individual variability in both NSSI and suicidal behavior among a sample of young adults with a history of NSSI (N = 439, Mage = 19.1). Participants completed self-report measures assessing NSSI, suicidal behavior, and psychosocial adjustment (e.g., depressive symptoms, daily hassles). We conducted a latent class analysis using several characteristics of NSSI and suicidal behaviors as class indicators. Three subgroups of individuals were identified: 1) an infrequent NSSI/not high risk for suicidal behavior group, 2) a frequent NSSI/not high risk for suicidal behavior group, and 3) a frequent NSSI/high risk for suicidal behavior group. Follow-up analyses indicated that individuals in the 'frequent NSSI/high risk for suicidal behavior' group met the clinical-cut off score for high suicidal risk and reported significantly greater levels of suicidal ideation, attempts, and risk for future suicidal behavior as compared to the other two classes. Thus, this study is the first to identity variability in suicidal risk among individuals engaging in frequent and multiple methods of NSSI. Class 3 was also differentiated by higher levels of psychosocial impairment relative to the other two classes, as well as a comparison group of non-injuring young adults. Results underscore the importance of assessing individual differences in NSSI characteristics, as well as psychosocial impairment, when assessing risk for suicidal behavior.

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