Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

A prospective study of child maltreatment and self-injurious behavior in a community sample

  • Tuppett M. Yates (a1), Elizabeth A. Carlson (a2) and Byron Egeland (a2)

In conjunction with prospective ratings of child maltreatment (i.e., sexual abuse, physical abuse, and physical neglect) and measures of dissociation and somatization, this study examined prospective pathways between child maltreatment and nonsuicidal, direct self-injurious behavior (SIB; e.g., cutting, burning, self-hitting). Ongoing participants in the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (N = 164; 83 males, 81 females) completed a semistructured interview about SIB when they were 26 years old. SIB emerged as a heterogeneous and prominent phenomenon in this low-income, mixed-gender, community sample. Child sexual abuse predicted recurrent injuring (i.e., three or more events; n = 13), whereas child physical abuse appeared more salient for intermittent injuring (i.e., one to two events; n = 13). Moreover, these relations appeared largely independent of risk factors that have been associated with child maltreatment and/or SIB, including child cognitive ability, socioeconomic status, maternal life stress, familial disruption, and childhood exposure to partner violence. Dissociation and somatization were related to SIB and, to a lesser degree, child maltreatment. However, only dissociation emerged as a significant mediator of the observed relation between child sexual abuse and recurrent SIB. The findings are discussed within a developmental psychopathology framework in which SIB is viewed as a compensatory regulatory strategy in posttraumatic adaptation.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Tuppett M. Yates, Department of Psychology, University of California, 2320 Olmsted Hall, Riverside, CA 92521; E-Mail:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

D. M. Allen , & K. J. Tarnowski (1989). Depressive characteristics of physically abused children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 17, 111.

P. J. Ambrosini , C. Metz , K. Prabucki , & J. Lee (1989). Videotape reliability of the third revised addition of the K-SADS. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 28, 723728.

A. E. Appel , & G. W. Holden (1998). The co-occurrence of spouse and physical child abuse: A review and appraisal. Journal of Family Psychology, 12, 578599.

I. Baral , K. Kora , S. Yuksel , & U. Sezgin (1998). Self-mutilating behavior of sexually abused female adults in Turkey. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 13, 427437.

R. M. Baron , & D. A. Kenny (1986). The moderator–mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 11731182.

A. C. Boudewyn , & J. Huser Liem (1995). Childhood sexual abuse as a precursor to depression and self-destructive behavior in adulthood. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 8, 445459.

P. Boyce , M. A. Oakley-Browne , & S. Hatcher (2001). The problem of deliberate self-harm. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 14, 107111.

J. Briere , & E. Gil (1998). Self-mutilation in clinical and general population samples: Prevalence, correlates, and functions. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 68, 609620.

J. Briere , & M. Runtz (1988). Symptomatology associated with childhood sexual victimization in a nonclinical adult sample. Child Abuse & Neglect, 12, 5159.

J. A. Chu (1991). The repetition compulsion revisited: Reliving dissociated trauma. Psychotherapy, 28, 327332.

D. Cicchetti , & C. E. Izard (1995). Emotions in developmental psychopathology [Special Issue]. Development and Psychopathology, 7.

R. Cochrane , & A. Robertson (1973). The Life Events Inventory: A measure of relative severity of psychosocial stresses. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 17, 135139.

P. M. Cole , & F. W. Putnam (1992). Effects of incest on self and social functioning: A developmental psychopathology perspective. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60, 174184.

W. Coster , M. Gersten , M. Beeghly , & D. Cicchetti (1989). Communicative functioning in maltreated toddlers. Developmental Psychology, 25, 10201027.

P. J. Curran , S. West , & J. F. Finch (1996). The robustness of test statistics to nonnormality and specification error in confirmatory factor analysis. Psychological Methods, 1, 1623.

M. Cyr , P. McDuff , J. Wright , C. Theriault , & C. Cinq-Mars (2005). Clinical correlates and repetition of self-harming behaviors among female adolescent victims of sexual abuse. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 14, 4968.

M. Farley , & J. C. Keaney (1997). Physical symptoms, somatization, and dissociation in women survivors of childhood sexual assault. Women & Health, 25, 3345.

A. R. Favazza (1998). The coming of age of self-mutilation. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 186, 259268.

A. R. Favazza , & K. Conteiro (1988). The plight of chronic self-mutilators. Community and Mental Health Journal, 24, 2230.

S. Fennig , G. A. Carlson , & S. Fennig (1995). Contagious self-mutilation. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 34, 402403.

K. W. Fischer , C. Ayoub , I. Singh , G. Noam , A. Maraganore , & P. Raya (1997). Psychopathology as adaptive development along distinctive pathways. Development and Psychopathology, 9, 749779.

C. Z. Garrison , C. L. Addy , R. E. McKeown , S. P. Cuffe , K. L. Jackson , & J. L. Waller (1993). Nonsuicidal physically self-damaging acts in adolescents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 2, 339352.

K. L. Gratz (2001). Measurement of deliberate self-harm: Preliminary data on the Deliberate Self-Harm Inventory. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 23, 253263.

K. L. Gratz , S. D. Conrad , & L. Roemer (2002). Risk factors for deliberate self-harm among college students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 72, 128140.

B. Henry , T. E. Moffitt , A. Caspi , J. Langley , & P. A. Silva (1994). On the remembrance of things past: A longitudinal evaluation of the retrospective method. Psychological Assessment, 6, 92101.

S. Herpertz , H. Sass , & A. R. Favazza (1997). Impulsivity in self-mutilative behavior: Psychometric and biological findings. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 31, 451465.

A. Jones (1986). Self-mutilation in prison: A comparison of mutilators and nonmutilators. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 13, 286296.

C. L. Kisiel , & J. S. Lyons (2001). Dissociation as a mediator of psychopathology among sexually abused children and adolescents. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158, 10341039.

E. D. Klonsky , T. F. Oltmanns , & E. Turkheimer (2003). Deliberate self-harm in a nonclinical population: Prevalence and psychological correlates. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 15011508.

D. S. Lipschitz , R. K. Winegar , A. L. Nicolaou , E. Hartnick , M. Wolfson , & S. M. Sowthwick (1999). Perceived abuse and neglect as risk factors for suicidal behavior in adolescent inpatients. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 187, 3239.

G. Low , D. Jones , A. MacLeod , M. Power , & C. Duggan (2000). Childhood trauma, dissociation and self-harming behaviour: A pilot study. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 73, 269278.

J. K. Luiselli , J. L. Matson , & N. N. Singh (Eds.). (1992). Self-injurious behavior: Analysis, assessment, and treatment. New York: Springer–Verlag.

J. Macfie , D. Cicchetti , & S. L. Toth (2001). The development of dissociation in maltreated preschool-aged children. Development and Psychopathology, 13, 233254.

D. P. MacKinnon , G. Warsi , & J. H. Dwyer (1995). A simulation study of mediated effect measures. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 30, 4162.

B. Mallinckrodt , W. T. Abraham , M. Wei , & D. W. Russell (2006). Advances in testing the statistical significance of mediation effects. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 372378.

H. Marshall , & A. Yazdani (1999). Locating culture in accounting for self-harm amongst Asian young women. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 9, 413433.

E. J. Mash , & D. A. Wolfe (1991). Methodological issues in research on child abuse. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 18, 829.

F. Masterpasqua (1989). A competence paradigm for psychological practice. American Psychologist, 44, 13661371.

H. Merckelbach , & P. Muris (2001). The causal link between self-reported trauma and dissociation: A critical review. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 39, 245254.

J. S. Milner (1998). Individual and family characteristics associated with intrafamilial child physical and sexual abuse. In P. K. Trickett & C. J. Schellenbach (Eds.), Violence against children in the family and the community (pp. 141170). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

N. J. D. Nagelkerke (1991). A note on the general definition of the coefficient of determination. Biometrika, 78, 691692.

M. R. Nash , T. L. Hulsely , M. C. Sexton , T. L. Harralson , & W. Lambert (1993). Long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse: Perceived family environment, psychopathology and dissociation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61, 276283.

M. K. Nixon , P. F. Cloutier , & S. Aggarwal (2002). Affect regulation and addictive aspects of repetitive self-injury in hospitalized adolescents. Journal of the Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 41, 13331341.

M. K. Nock , & M. J. Prinstein (2004). A functional approach to the assessment of self-mutilative behavior. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 885890.

J. R. Ogawa , L. A. Sroufe , N. S. Weinfield , E. A. Carlson , & B. Egeland (1997). Development and the fragmented self: Longitudinal study of dissociative symptomatology in a nonclinical sample. Development and Psychopathology, 9, 855879.

C. Oliver , & J. Petty (2002). Self-injurious behavior in people with intellectual disability. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 15, 477481.

J. Panksepp , S. M. Siviy , & L. A. Normansell (1985). Brain opioids and social emotions. In M. Reite & T. Field (Eds.), The psychobiology of attachment and separation (pp. 349). Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

T. Paul , K. Schroeter , B. Dahme , & D. O. Nutzinger (2002). Self-injurious behavior in women with eating disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 408411.

R. C. Pianta , & B. Egeland (1990). Life stress and parenting outcomes in a disadvantaged sample: Results of the Mother–Child Interaction Project. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 19, 329336.

K. J. Preacher , & A. F. Hayes (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 36, 717731.

N. Putnam , & M. Stein (1985). Self-inflicted injuries in childhood: A review and diagnostic approach. Clinical Pediatrics, 24, 514518.

S. Reid , & J. A. Henry (2001). Deliberate self-harm. Primary Care Psychiatry, 8, 17.

S. R. Ross , & N. Heath (2002). A study of the frequency of self-mutilation in a community sample of adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 31, 6777.

M. Rutter , & L. A. Sroufe (2000). Developmental psychopathology: Concepts and challenges. Development and Psychopathology, 12, 265296.

R. A. Sansone , G. A. Gaither , & J. Barclay (2002). Childhood trauma and somatic preoccupation in adulthood among a sample of psychiatric inpatients. Psychosomatics, 43, 86.

R. A. Sansone , M. W. Wiederman , & L. A. Sansone (1998). The self-harm inventory (SHI): Development of a scale for identifying self-destructive behaviors and borderline personality disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 54, 973983.

G. N. Saxe , N. Chawla , & B. A. van der Kolk (2002). Self-destructive behavior in patients with dissociative disorders. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 32, 313320.

S. R. Schroeder , M. L. Oster-Granite , & T. Thompson (Eds.). (2002). Self-injurious behavior: Gene–brain–behavior relationships. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

N. Schwartz (1999). Self-reports: How the questions shape the answers. American Psychologist, 54, 93105.

P. E. Shrout , & N. Bolger (2002). Mediation in experimental and nonexperimental studies: New procedures and recommendations. Psychological Methods, 7, 422445.

S. Spaccarelli , I. N. Sandler , & M. Roosa (1994). History of spouse violence against mother: Correlated risks and unique effects in child mental health. Journal of Family Violence, 9, 7998.

L. A. Sroufe , & M. Rutter (1984). The domain of developmental psychopathology. Child Development, 55, 1729.

K. J. Sternberg , M. E. Lamb , & S. Dawud-Noursi (1998). Using multiple informants to understand domestic violence and its effects. In G. W. Holden , R. Geffner , & E. N. Jouriles (Eds.), Children exposed to marital violence: Theory, research, and applied issues (pp. 121156). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

G. Stevens , & D. L. Featherman (1981). A revised socioeconomic index of occupational status. Social Science Research, 10, 364395.

K. L. Suyemoto (1998). The functions of self-mutilation. Clinical Psychology Review, 18, 531554.

F. S. Symons (2002). Self-injury and pain: Models and mechanisms. In S. R. Schroeder , M. L. Oster-Granite , & T. Thompson (Eds.), Self-injurious behavior: Gene–brain–behavior relationships (pp. 223234). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

S. C. Turell , & M. W. Armsworth (2000). Differentiating incest survivors who self-mutilate. Child Abuse and Neglect, 24, 237249.

M. Turp (1999). Working with body storylines. Psychodynamic Counselling, 5, 301317.

K. A. Tyler , L. B. Whitbeck , D. R. Hoyt , & K. D. Johnson (2003). Self-mutilation and homeless youth: The role of family abuse, street experiences, and mental disorders. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 13, 457474.

J. L. Whitlock , J. Eckenrode , & D. Silverman (2006). Self-injurious behaviors in a college population. Pediatrics, 117, 19391948.

J. L. Whitlock , J. L. Powers , & J. Eckenrode (2006). The virtual cutting edge: The internet and adolescent self-injury. Developmental Psychology, 42, 407417.

M. W. Wiederman , R. A. Sansone , & L. A. Sansone (1999). Bodily self-harm and its relationship to childhood abuse among women in a primary care setting. Violence Against Women, 5, 155163.

T. M. Yates (2004). The developmental psychopathology of self-injurious behavior: Compensatory regulation in posttraumatic adaptation. Clinical Psychology Review, 24, 3574.

T. M. Yates , A. J. Tracy , & S. S. Luthar (2008). Nonsuicidal self-injury among “privileged” youth: Longitudinal and cross-sectional approaches to developmental process. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76, 5262.

C. Zlotnick , J. I. Mattia , & M. Zimmerman (1999). Clinical correlates of self-mutilation in a sample of general psychiatric patients. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 187, 296301.

C. Zlotnick , M. T. Shea , & T. Pearlstein (1996). The relationship between dissociative symptoms, alexithymia, impulsivity, sexual abuse and self-mutilation. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 37, 1216.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 3
Total number of PDF views: 45 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 177 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 25th March 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.