Impact of childhood abuse on the risk of non-suicidal self-injury in mainland Chinese adolescents

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Abstract

Background: Childhood abuse has been associated with significant increases in non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) behaviors in adolescents; however, only general definitions of this risk indicator have been examined. This study identified relationships between specific forms of childhood abuse and NSSI in mainland Chinese adolescents. Method: A total of 14,221 cases were retained from an epidemiological study involving adolescents from junior and senior middle schools. Information relating to the perpetrator, perceived harm, timing of exposure to different types of childhood abuse, and NSSI were obtained. Logistic regression was used to analyze relationships between each form of childhood abuse and NSSI. Results: Approximately 51.0% of the students reported at least one abusive childhood experience. Nearly one in four students (24.9%) reported that they had engaged in NSSI in the past 12 months. Each type of childhood abuse, occurring at any time within the first 16 years of life, especially in situations of continuous exposure, was significantly associated with NSSI. A significant graded relationship was found between number of abusive childhood experiences and NSSI. Students maltreated by parents or others were at high risk of engaging in NSSI, the risk was greater in students maltreated by both; students who had been exposed to childhood abuse with no perceived harm still demonstrated an elevated risk for NSSI. The pattern of associations did not vary by gender. Conclusions: These findings suggest that experiencing any of various forms of childhood abuse should be considered a risk factor for NSSI during adolescence. Further research should focus upon psychosocial, neural, and genetic factors that might moderate or mediate the onset of NSSI in adolescents who have experienced childhood abuse.

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Wan, Y., Chen, J., Sun, Y., & Tao, F. (2015). Impact of childhood abuse on the risk of non-suicidal self-injury in mainland Chinese adolescents. PLoS ONE, 10(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0131239

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