Personality, child maltreatment, and substance use: Examining correlates of deliberate self-harm among university students

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Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp. 241-251.

Deliberate self-harm (DSH), according to the authors, has recently gained attention in academic literature and media focus. DSH is defined as a wide range of behaviours intended to “cause harm to the self, even if the act [does] not actually result in harm” (p.241). Using questionnaires from a sample of 320 first year university students, the authors examined the relationship between DSH and respondents’ histories of childhood abuse and neglect, personality traits, and substance use. Just under 30% of participants reported having engaged in self-harm behaviour, with similar rates across genders (26.8% men and 30.9% women). The most frequently reported self-harm behaviours included cutting (38.3%), entering into risky behaviours (31.9%), carving (27.6%), scratching (26.6%), and using substances to self-harm (22.3%). Although male and female respondents had similar rates of DSH, women were more likely to engage in cutting and men were more likely to engage in activities that exposed them to violence as a means to self-harm. The authors found that among participants “depressive symptoms, physical neglect, emotional abuse, openness, sensation seeking and past year illicit drug use emerged as significant correlates of DSH” (p.246).

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