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Parents’ Experiences of Nonsuicidal Self-Injury Among Adolescents and Young Adults

Abstract

We assessed the impact of adolescent nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) on parents in two studies. In Study 1, 16 Australian parents of adolescents with a history of nonsuicidal self-injury responded to open-ended questions about their child’s nonsuicidal self-injury. Data from 10 of the adolescents were matched with parents’ responses regarding the nature and extent of nonsuicidal self-injury, revealing that parents underestimated the frequency of nonsuicidal self-injury, the age of onset, and the likelihood their child would continue to self-injure. In Study 2, 22 American parents of adolescents with a history of nonsuicidal self-injury participated in interviews about their experiences. Parents in both studies reported changes in the parent–adolescent relationship after self-injury, which posed challenges to the family unit. When professional help had been sought, experiences were largely negative. Results support further investigation into family-based interventions to equip parents with tools to better relate to, and communicate with, their adolescent following self-injury. Results also suggest that mental-health professionals and general practitioners may require further training for nonsuicidal self-injury.

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Correspondence to Penelope Hasking.

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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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Kelada, L., Whitlock, J., Hasking, P. et al. Parents’ Experiences of Nonsuicidal Self-Injury Among Adolescents and Young Adults. J Child Fam Stud 25, 3403–3416 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-016-0496-4

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Keywords

  • Self-injury
  • Adolescents
  • Young adults
  • Parental wellbeing