The following is a summary of “Adolescent Predictors of Deliberate Self-Harm Thoughts and Behavior Among Young Adults: A Longitudinal Cross-National Study,” published in the July 2023 issue of the Adolescent Health by Taliaferro et al.
This study further expands upon and enhances prior longitudinal investigations on deliberate self-harm (DSH) among young individuals by examining the risk and protective factors during adolescence that can potentially forecast DSH ideation and conduct in early adulthood. The self-report data were obtained from a total of 1,945 participants who were recruited as state-representative cohorts from Washington State and Victoria, Australia. The participants underwent surveys during their seventh-grade year (with an average age of 13 years), as they progressed through the eighth and ninth grades, and subsequently online at 25 years. The retention rate of the original sample at the age of 25 years was 88%.
Various risk and protective factors during adolescence were investigated through multivariable analyses to assess their impact on thoughts and behavior related to deliberate self-harm in young adulthood. Within the sample, 9.55% (n = 162) and 2.83% (n = 48) of young adult participants indicated experiencing deliberate self-harm (DSH) thoughts and behaviors, respectively. Several factors were examined in the multivariable model for young adulthood deliberate self-harm (DSH) thoughts. Depressive symptoms in adolescence were found to increase the risk (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.05; confidence interval [CI] = 1.00–1.09). On the other hand, higher levels of adaptive coping strategies during adolescence were associated with a decreased risk (AOR = 0.46; CI = 0.28–0.74). Similarly, higher levels of community rewards for prosocial behavior during adolescence were also associated with a decreased risk (AOR = 0.73; CI = 0.57–0.93).
Additionally, residing in Washington State was found to be associated with a decreased risk. In the ultimate multivariable model for deliberate self-harm behavior in young adulthood, diminished positive family management strategies during adolescence persisted as the sole noteworthy predictor (adjusted odds ratio = 1.90; CI = 1.01–3.60). Prevention and intervention programs for deliberate self-harm (DSH) should not solely concentrate on depression management and strengthening familial bonds and support. They should also aim to foster resilience by encouraging adaptive coping mechanisms and establishing relationships with adult figures in the community who acknowledge and reinforce prosocial behavior.