Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 1735–1745 | Cite as

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury and Adolescents Attachment with Peers and Mother: The Mediating Role of Identity Synthesis and Confusion

  • Amarendra GandhiEmail author
  • Laurence Claes
  • Guy Bosmans
  • Imke Baetens
  • Tom F. Wilderjans
  • Shubhada Maitra
  • Glenn Kiekens
  • Koen Luyckx
Original Paper


Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is highly prevalent in adolescents. Secure attachment with family and peers can reduce vulnerability to NSSI and can optimize the outcomes of developmental challenges such as identity formation. Problems experienced in these developmental processes and contexts can increase vulnerability to NSSI. Hence, the present study examined associations between attachment with mother and peers, identity formation, and NSSI, using self-report questionnaires in 528 high school students (Mean age = 15.0 years, SD = 1.84, 11–19 years, 50.4 % females). The lifetime prevalence of NSSI was found to be 14.2 %. Mediation analyses indicated that peer trust had a significant negative indirect effect on NSSI via identity synthesis and confusion. The positive association between peer alienation and NSSI was partially mediated by a lack of identity synthesis. Further, the pathways from maternal trust and alienation to NSSI were fully mediated by both identity confusion and synthesis. Clinical implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.


Non-suicidal self-injury Maternal attachment Peer attachment Identity confusion Identity synthesis 



Tom F. Wilderjans is a post-doctoral fellow at the Fund for Scientific Research (FWO)-Flanders.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Psychology and Educational SciencesKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (CAPRI)University of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium
  3. 3.Parenting and Special Education Research GroupKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  4. 4.Department of Clinical & Life Span PsychologyVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  5. 5.Methodology of Educational Sciences Research GroupKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  6. 6.Faculty of Social and Behavioural SciencesLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands
  7. 7.Center for Health and Mental HealthTata Institute of Social SciencesMumbaiIndia
  8. 8.Research Group of PsychiatryKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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