Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Risk of Self-Harm Higher in Adolescents With Stressed Parents

Children whose parents experience parenting stress and other parenting issues may have a higher risk of nonsuicidal self-injury in adolescence, a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has found.

Tove Wichstrøm, M.A., and Lars Wichstrøm, Ph.D., of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, examined data from 759 Norwegian adolescents at age 12, 14, or 16 years to determine the adolescents' rate of nonsuicidal self-injury as measured by the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment. The researchers also examined data provided by the adolescents' parents, teachers, and the youth themselves collected when the adolescents were 6 years old. Childhood data included parental characteristics (parental stress, parental depression, perceived parental hostility, and perceived emotional availability), childhood characteristics (negative affectivity, emotion regulation, symptoms of emotional disorders, and symptoms of behavioral disorders), and negative childhood life events such as victimization by bullying.

Overall, 10% of the adolescents reported nonsuicidal self-injury during the preceding 12 months at 12, 14, or 16 years of age. Females had 11.6 times the odds of nonsuicidal self-injury compared with males. Adolescents whose parents reported parental stress when the adolescents were 6 years old had 4.8 times the odds of reporting nonsuicidal self-injury compared with adolescents whose parents did not report parental stress. Adolescents who perceived parental hostility and negativity at 6 years old had 1.8 times the odds of nonsuicidal self-injury compared with adolescents who did not. However, child characteristics and negative events did not appear to increase the odds of adolescents reporting nonsuicidal self-injury.

"Stress in parents is hypothesized to have widespread negative impacts on child development, including the development of behavioral problems and reduced social competence. It is therefore possible that increased stress contributes to the emergence of risk factors in children, which have implications for [nonsuicidal self-injury]-related vulnerabilities in adolescence," Wichstrøm and Wichstrøm wrote.

"[U]niversal or indicated interventions to reduce parenting stress and to improve parent‒child interactions during childhood may reduce the risk of [nonsuicidal self-injury] in adolescence," they concluded.

For related information, see the Psychiatric Services article, "Testing the Impact of a Peer-Delivered Family Support Program: A Randomized Clinical Effectiveness Trial."

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