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15-04-2019 | Empirical Research

Social Ties Cut Both Ways: Self-Harm and Adolescent Peer Networks

Journal of Youth and Adolescence
Molly Copeland, Sonja E. Siennick, Mark E. Feinberg, James Moody, Daniel T. Ragan
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10964-019-01011-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorised users.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


Peers play an important role in adolescence, a time when self-harm arises as a major health risk, but little is known about the social networks of adolescents who cut. Peer network positions can affect mental distress related to cutting or provide direct social motivations for self-harm. This study uses PROSPER survey data from U.S. high school students (n = 11,160, 48% male, grades 11 and 12), finding that social networks predict self-cutting net of demographics and depressive symptoms. In final models, bridging peers predicts higher self-cutting, while claiming more friends predicts lower cutting for boys. The findings suggest that researchers and practitioners should consider peer networks both a beneficial resource and source of risk associated with cutting for teens and recognize the sociostructural contexts of self-harm for adolescents more broadly.

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