Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 1449–1459 | Cite as

Parental Absence and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury: Social Support, Social Constraints and Sense-Making

  • Natasha P. Trujillo
  • Heather Servaty-Seib
Original Paper


Given the rise of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) in youth, it is imperative to address understudied correlates that may contribute to NSSI. The primary purpose of the present study was to investigate NSSI in college students (N = 1703) with or without a history of parental absence. We also examined the relationships between parental absence, interpersonal (i.e., support and social constraint) factors, intrapersonal (i.e., sense-making) factors, and NSSI in our sample of primarily Caucasian/White, heterosexual, single, traditional-aged, female college students. Logistic regression indicated that the odds of reporting NSSI were 5 times higher for participants who had experienced permanent parental absence (e.g., death) compared to those who had not experienced absence. The odds of reporting NSSI were 8.5 and 7.5 times higher for those respondents who had experienced non-permanent parental absence (e.g., parental travel) and both types of parental absence, respectively, when compared to those who experienced permanent parental absence. Social support, social constraint, and sense-making made significant but small contributions to the prediction of NSSI endorsement. Participants who reported experiencing both permanent and non-permanent absence exhibited the highest level (p < .001, η2 = .09) of interpersonal reasons (e.g., to hurt someone) for engaging in NSSI. These findings can serve as a catalyst for future NSSI research (e.g., the potential importance of including parental absence as a background variable). Moreover, the results suggest the possible benefit of continued examination of: (a) the relationship between experiencing both types of parental absence and engagement in NSSI for interpersonal reasons; and (b) social support, sense-making, and social constraint as contributing factors of NSSI endorsement.


Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) Parental absence Sense-making Support Social constraint 


Author Contributions

N.P.T.: Designed and executed the study and collaborated in writing the manuscript. H.L.S.S.: Assisted with design and analysis and collaborated in writing the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational StudiesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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