A theoretical approach to understanding reasons for adolescent self-harm

Susan Rasmussen, Rory O'Connor, Keith Hawton

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Self-harm is common among adolescents. Recent research has attempted to understand the prevalence and the reasoning behind self-harm. The present study aimed to investigate 1) whether the reasons given for self-harm differed according to how long ago the self-harming behaviour occurred, and 2) whether motives (Cry of pain vs. cry for help) given at baseline were able to predict repetition of self-harm over a 6 month period. 988 school pupils aged 15-16 years completed a self-report questionnaire (modified version of the Child and Adolescent Self-Harm in Europe study) at two time points 6 months apart. The motive “to get relief from a terrible state of mind” was the most endorsed reason for self-harm (boys and girls). The least commonly endorsed reasons were the cry for help or ‘manipulative’ reasons. To investigate whether there were any differences in the reasons assigned to the behaviour as a result of when self-harm last occurred (less than a month, between a month and a year, more than a year) multinomial regression analysis was conducted. This analysis highlighted that the adolescents who had most recently self-harmed (less than a month) were significantly more likely to endorse the reason “I wanted to punish myself” than the over a month ago but less than a year, and the adolescents who had last self-harmed more than a year ago. In addition, logistic regression was conducted to establish whether the reasons for self-harming endorsed at T1 were able to predict self-harm 6 months later (T2). This analysis revealed that pupils who endorsed “I wanted to find out whether someone really loved me” at T1 were significantly less likely to self-harm at T2, whilst pupils who endorsed “wanting to get relief from a terrible state of mind” at T1 were significantly more likely to self-harm at T2. The results are discussed in relation to their implications for educational mental health provision.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010
Event13th European Symposium on Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour - Rome, Italy
Duration: 1 Sep 20104 Sep 2010


Conference13th European Symposium on Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour


  • self-harm
  • adolescents
  • multinomial regression analysis
  • behaviour

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