Adolescents who self-harm more likely to commit violent crime

January 04, 2019

DURHAM, N.C. -- Young people who self-harm are three times more likely to commit violent crime than those who do not, according to new research from the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University.

The study also found young people who harm themselves and commit violent crime -- "dual harmers" -- are more likely to have a history of childhood maltreatment and lower self-control than those who only self-harm. Thus, programs aimed at preventing childhood maltreatment or improving self-control among self-harmers could help prevent violent crime, the authors state.

Rates of self-harm -- deliberately harming oneself, often by cutting or burning -- have increased substantially among adolescents in recent years both in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the U.S., roughly one in four teenage girls try to harm themselves and one in 10 teenage boys. In the U.K., the yearly incidence of self-injury among teenage girls has risen by nearly 70 percent in three years.

"We know that some individuals who self-harm also inflict harm on others," said Leah Richmond-Rakerd, lead author of the study. "What has not been clear is whether there are early-life characteristics or experiences that increase the risk of violent offending among individuals who self-harm. Identifying these risk factors could guide interventions that prevent and reduce interpersonal violence."

In the study, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, Richmond-Rakerd and researchers from Duke and King's College London compared young people who engage in "dual-harm" behavior with those who only self-harm.

Participants were from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a nationally representative U.K. cohort of 2,232 twins born in 1994 and 1995 who have been followed across the first two decades of life. Self-harm in adolescence was assessed through interviews at age 18. Violent offenses were assessed using a computer questionnaire at age 18 and police records through age 22.

"By comparing twins who grew up in the same family, we were able to test whether self-harm and violent crime go together merely because they come from the same genetic or family risk factors," said Terrie E. Moffitt of Duke University, founder of the E-Risk Study. "They did not. This means that young people who self-harm may see violence as a way of solving problems and begin to use it against others as well as themselves."

Researchers also found that those who committed violence against both themselves and others were more likely to have experienced victimization in adolescence. They also had higher rates of psychotic symptoms and substance dependence.

"Our study suggests that dual-harming adolescents have experienced self-control difficulties and been victims of violence from a young age," said Richmond-Rakerd. "A treatment-oriented rather than punishment-oriented approach is indicated to meet these individuals' needs."

Additional recommendations include:
-end-
This research was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (HD077482), the Jacobs Foundation and the Avielle Foundation. Leah S. Richmond-Rakerd was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship provided by the NICHD (T32-HD007376) through the Center for Developmental Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The E-Risk Longitudinal Twin Study is funded by the UK Medical Research Council (grant G1002190).

CITATION: "Adolescents Who Self-Harm and Commit Violent Crime: Testing early-life predictors of dual harm in a longitudinal cohort study," Leah S. Richmond-Rakerd, Avshalom Caspi, Louise Arseneault, Jessie R. Baldwin, Andrea Danese, Renate M. Houts, Timothy Matthews, Jasmin Wertz, and Terrie E. Moffitt. The American Journal of Psychiatry, Jan. 4, 2019. DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.18060740

Duke University

Related Violence Articles from Brightsurf:

Combined intimate partner violence that includes sexual violence is common & more damaging
Women who experience sexual violence combined with other forms of intimate partner violence suffer greater damage to their health and are much more likely to attempt suicide, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Bristol's Centre for Academic Primary Care published in the International Journal of Epidemiology today [12 November 2020].

As farming developed, so did cooperation -- and violence
The growth of agriculture led to unprecedented cooperation in human societies, a team of researchers, has found, but it also led to a spike in violence, an insight that offers lessons for the present.

The front line of environmental violence
Environmental defenders on the front line of natural resource conflict are being killed at an alarming rate, according to a University of Queensland study.

What can trigger violence in postcolonial Africa?
Why do civil wars and coups d'├ętat occur more frequently in some sub-Saharan African countries than others.

Another victim of violence: Trust in those who mean no harm
Exposure to violence does not change the ability to learn who is likely to do harm, but it does damage the ability to place trust in 'good people,' psychologists at Yale and University of Oxford report April 26 in the journal Nature Communications

Victims of gun violence tell their stories: Everyday violence, 'feelings of hopelessness'
Invited to share their personal stories, victims of urban gun violence describe living with violence as a 'common everyday experience' and feeling abandoned by police and other societal institutions, reports a study in the November/December Journal of Trauma Nursing, official publication of the Society of Trauma Nurses.

Does more education stem political violence?
In a study released online today in Review of Educational Research, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, three Norwegian researchers attempt to bring clarity to this question by undertaking the first systematic examination of quantitative research on this topic.

Teen dating violence is down, but boys still report more violence than girls
When it comes to teen dating violence, boys are more likely to report being the victim of violence -- being hit, slapped, or pushed--than girls.

Preventing murder by addressing domestic violence
Victims of domestic violence are at a high risk to be murdered -- or a victim of attempted murder -- according to a Cuyahoga County task force of criminal-justice professionals, victim advocates and researchers working to prevent domestic violence and homicides.

'Love displaces violence'
Art historian Eva-Bettina Krems on persistent motifs of peace in art from antiquity to the present day -- dove, rainbow or victory of love: artists draw on recurring motifs.

Read More: Violence News and Violence Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.