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Front Psychiatry. 2017 Aug 24;8:149. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00149. eCollection 2017.

The Relationship between Childhood Maltreatment and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury: A Systematic Review.

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Department of Neuroscience, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics and Maternal and Child Health, Section of Psychiatry, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy.
Department of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Sensory Organs, Suicide Prevention Center, Sant'Andrea Hospital, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Naples SUN, Naples, Italy.
Department of Psychology and Human Development, UCL Institute of Education, University College London, London, United Kingdom.



Childhood maltreatment (CM) has been associated with an increased risk of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and suicidal behaviors. However, the exact nature of the association between CM and NSSI is currently unclear. The present review aimed to systematically investigate the association between CM and NSSI in adolescence and early adulthood.


A systematic search of four major electronic databases covering both medical and social science research (PubMed, Scopus, Science Direct, and PsycINFO) was conducted.


Overall, 20 cross-sectional studies including a total of 22,517 individuals, 3 longitudinal follow-up studies including 1,728 individuals, and 3 retrospective studies including 62,089 individuals were selected. It appears that CM is a significant risk factor for both NSSI and suicide attempts. The increased vulnerability to NSSI seems to be related to experiences of CM, particularly sexual abuse. Gender differences were also found. Generally, when compared to males, females who experienced CM seem to be more vulnerable to presenting with NSSI and suicidal behaviors.


There is a positive association between CM and NSSI. The importance of early detection and risk reduction of self-injurious behavior for adolescents is discussed.


childhood maltreatment; emotional neglect; non-suicidal self-injury; physical/sexual abuse; suicidal behaviors

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