Rethinking pathology in adolescent self-harm: towards a more complex understanding of risk factors

Sarah Stanford, Michael P. Jones*, Jennifer L. Hudson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Researchers have begun to consider whether there may be more than one psychological profile to describe adolescents who engage in self-harm. Limited past research suggests multiple different profiles. Australian high school students (n = 1,521, age 11–19, 56.4% female) completed an online questionnaire reporting risk and protective factors and self-harm frequency. Non-hierarchical cluster analysis allocated 256 students who reported 6-month self-harm to mutually exclusive profiles based on psychological similarity. Five distinct psychological profiles were identified: 1) Psychologically 'normal'; 2) Anxiety symptoms; 3) Impulsive; 4) Pathological; and 5) Pathological-Impulsive. The proportion of adolescents that reported 11 or more episodes of self-harm varied from 5.7% in the psychologically 'Normal' group to 27.7% in the 'Pathological- Impulsive' group. These results indicate that multiple psychological profiles exist. Adolescents with different risk factors may require disparate strategies for treatment and prevention. Given the variability in profiles, screening may assist in detecting adolescents who self-harm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-41
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • adolescence
  • risk factors
  • self-harm


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