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03-07-2015 | Uitgave 3/2016

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 3/2016

Heterogeneity of Relational Backgrounds is Associated With Variation in Non-Suicidal Self-Injurious Behavior

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology > Uitgave 3/2016
Jodi Martin, Jean-François Bureau, Kim Yurkowski, Marie-France Lafontaine, Paula Cloutier


Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a self-destructive behavior of common prevalence in adolescence and young adulthood. Engagement in NSSI has been consistently linked in the literature with perceptions of one’s parent–child relationships as negative or invalidating. However, the potential for multiple combinations of such relational characteristics to be associated with varying cognitive and behavioral manifestations of NSSI remains uninvestigated. In the current study, a person-centered approach to studying perceived parent–child relationship quality and NSSI was adopted; functions and behavioral severity of NSSI were then compared across the different relational profiles created. A latent profile analysis in a sample of 264 self-injuring university students (205 females; mage = 19.37 years, sd = 1.50) revealed four distinct profiles, two characterized by negative parent–child perceptions and two by positive parent–child perceptions. The perceived relational dimensions of these profiles were unique compared to a parallel group of 264 non-self-injurers (207 females; mage = 19.27 years, sd = 1.33). Participants reporting negative parent–child relationships endorsed more severe NSSI, and engaged in NSSI to regulate aggressive emotions. In contrast, individuals reporting positive parent–child relationships engaged in less extreme manifestations of NSSI overall, suggesting lower psychological deficits. Findings suggest that, although not all self-injurers perceive their relationships with parents negatively, variation in the perception of relational quality is implicated in behavioral and cognitive variation in NSSI engagement.

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