Indirect Effects of Family Functioning on Non-Suicidal Self-Injury and Risky Drinking: The Roles of Emotion Reactivity and Emotion Regulation

Abstract

People who engage in dysregulated behaviours, such as nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) and risky drinking, commonly report adverse family environments. We investigated the association between family functioning and NSSI and/or risky drinking, with a focus on the roles of emotional reactivity and dysregulation. A sample of 733 university students (age: 18–33 years; M = 21.54; 76.6% female) completed self-report measures. Of the sample, 35% reported self-injury and 31% risky drinking. NSSI was associated with all variables (family functioning, emotional reactivity, emotional dysregulation) but few predicted risky drinking. Family functioning was indirectly associated with NSSI through emotional reactivity and dysregulation. Additionally, difficulties in emotion regulation moderated the association between family function and NSSI. While people with difficulties regulating emotion are more likely to self-injure, poor family functioning increases risk even among those with no such difficulties. While family context may increase risk of dysregulated behaviours, intervention may also benefit from focusing on emotional reactivity and regulation of emotions.

Highlights

  • We tested the association between family functioning and NSSI and/or risky drinking.

  • Poor family functioning increases risk of NSSI.

  • Family functioning was indirectly associated with NSSI, via emotion regulation.

  • Intervention could focus on the experience and regulation of emotions.

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Author Contributions

PH and MB conceptualised and designed the study, assisted with data analysis, analysed data and assisted with manuscript preparation; JD collected data and prepared the manuscript for publication; NG and PW collected data and assisted with manuscript preparation.

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Correspondence to Penelope Hasking.

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Hasking, P., Dawkins, J., Gray, N. et al. Indirect Effects of Family Functioning on Non-Suicidal Self-Injury and Risky Drinking: The Roles of Emotion Reactivity and Emotion Regulation. J Child Fam Stud 29, 2070–2079 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-020-01722-4

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Keywords

  • Self-injury
  • NSSI
  • Family
  • Emotion regulation