Nonsuicidal Self-Injury in Adolescents Placed in Youth Welfare and Juvenile Justice Group Homes: Associations with Mental Disorders and Suicidality

Abstract

Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a frequent phenomenon in adolescents, however there is a lack of studies on the prevalence of NSSI in adolescents placed in youth welfare and juvenile justice group homes. The goal of the present study is to investigate the prevalence rates of NSSI and mental disorders in adolescents living in the youth welfare system, as well as how occasional and repetitive NSSI differ with respect to mental disorders, suicidality, and gender. The sample consisted of 397 adolescents aged 12 to19 years (mean age = 15.98, SD = 1.77, 65.7% male) placed in youth welfare and juvenile justice group homes. NSSI, suicidality, and mental disorders were assessed using the Kiddie-Schedule of Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (K-SADS-PL). Lifetime prevalence rates of occasional and repetitive NSSI were 21.9% and 18.4%, respectively and 85.6% of the sample endorsed a lifetime mental disorder. Occasional and repetitive NSSI were significantly associated with depressive, conduct, and substance use disorders (d = 0.50–0.67) among both genders. Prevalence rates of repetitive NSSI in youth welfare and juvenile justice institutions are higher than in the general population and males who engage in NSSI are at particularly high risk of suicidality. Due to the high prevalence of NSSI and its related problems, NSSI should be routinely assessed in this vulnerable population and staff should be trained in recognizing and handling NSSI as well as supporting adolescents in improving their emotion regulation skills.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all subjects and caregivers who participated in this study, our colleagues who helped implement it and the Swiss Ministry of Justice for providing the funding.

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Correspondence to Marc Schmid.

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This study was funded by the Swiss Ministry of Justice.

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Author D was involved in a clinical trial with Lundbeck pharmaceuticals. The other authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Lüdtke, J., In-Albon, T., Schmeck, K. et al. Nonsuicidal Self-Injury in Adolescents Placed in Youth Welfare and Juvenile Justice Group Homes: Associations with Mental Disorders and Suicidality. J Abnorm Child Psychol 46, 343–354 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-017-0291-8

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Keywords

  • Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI)
  • Youth welfare system
  • Juvenile justice
  • Suicidality
  • Residential group home