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What Predicts Ongoing Nonsuicidal Self-Injury?: A Comparison Between Persistent and Ceased Self-Injury in Emerging Adults

Kiekens, Glenn MSc*†; Hasking, Penelope PhD; Bruffaerts, Ronny PhD*; Claes, Laurence PhD‡§; Baetens, Imke PhD; Boyes, Mark PhD; Mortier, Philippe MD*; Demyttenaere, Koen PhD, MD*; Whitlock, Janis PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: October 2017 - Volume 205 - Issue 10 - p 762–770
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000726
Original Articles

Although nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) peaks in adolescence, a significant proportion of young people continue to self-injure into emerging adulthood. Yet, little is known about factors prospectively associated with persistent NSSI. Using data from a 3-year longitudinal study (n = 1466), we compared 51 emerging adults (67.3% female; average age, 20.0 years) who continued to self-injure from adolescence and 50 emerging adults (83.7% female; average age, 20.3 years) who had ceased NSSI, on a broad range of psychosocial factors. More frequent NSSI, use of a greater number of methods, specific NSSI functions, academic and emotional distress, and lack of perceived emotion regulatory capability differentiated emerging adults who continued with NSSI and those who had ceased the behavior. Further, the relationships between social support, life satisfaction, and NSSI were mediated by perceived ability to regulate emotion. Findings from this study point to the role of personal belief in the ability to effectively regulate emotion in the cessation of NSSI. Future research directions and clinical implications are discussed.

*Research Group Psychiatry, Department of Neurosciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium; †School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Perth, Australia; ‡Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium; §Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (CAPRI), University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium; ∥Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium; and ¶College of Human Ecology, Cornell University, New York, New York.

Send reprint requests to Glenn Kiekens, MSc, Research Group Psychiatry, Department of Neurosciences, KU Leuven, Herestraat 49, bus 7003 37, 3000, Leuven, Belgium. E-mail:

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