Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 57–62 | Cite as

Brief Report: Non-suicidal Self-injury in the Context of Self and Identity Development

  • Andrea V. BreenEmail author
  • Stephen P. Lewis
  • Olga Sutherland


This brief report describes an exploratory qualitative study that examined online narratives of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) in the context of critical developmental tasks of early adulthood: the development of self and identity. Thematic analyses of online autobiographical accounts of NSSI suggest that self and identity processes that are particularly relevant in early adulthood may contribute to vulnerability to NSSI. Specifically, NSSI may provide a source of self-identification in the service of developing self-identity and a community of others with whom to identify, a means for managing negative emotions specifically related to negative self-concept, and it may provide a basic sense of a coherent self who persists across time. Implications are discussed with respect to research, clinical practice, and prevention, with a particular emphasis on the Internet as a context for early adult development.


Self Identity development Non-suicidal self-injury Early adulthood Internet 



We wish to thank Thomas G. Baker for his assistance with data collection and Thiago Kurtz and Kate McLean for their helpful critiques of an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea V. Breen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stephen P. Lewis
    • 2
  • Olga Sutherland
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Family Relations and Applied NutritionUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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