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25-04-2019 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 7/2019

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 7/2019

Stressful Experiences, Emotion Dysregulation, and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury among University Students

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 7/2019
Lexi Ewing, Chloe A. Hamza, Teena Willoughby
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Developmental theory on nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI; e.g., self-cutting without lethal intent) underscores that stressful life experiences may lead to heightened risk for NSSI, potentially by undermining individuals’ emotion coping capacities. Given that the transition to university is often accompanied by new stressors for emerging adults, it is possible that stressors experienced during the university years may lead to heightened susceptibility for NSSI during this developmental period. Cross-sectional research supports a positive association between stressful experiences and NSSI among students; however, longitudinal research is needed to examine the direction of effects and explore potential mediating factors (i.e., emotion dysregulation). In the present study, university students (N = 1132; 70.5% female; mage = 19.11) reported on their stressful experiences in university, difficulties in emotion regulation, and NSSI each year for three consecutive years. Path analysis revealed a bidirectional association between stressful experiences and NSSI. Increased stressful experiences predicted increased risk for NSSI through emotion dysregulation, and NSSI predicted increased stressful experiences through emotion dysregulation. Overall, these findings provide new insight into the processes through which NSSI may be initiated and maintained, as well as elucidate the impacts of NSSI on emotion regulation and stressful life experiences in university.

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