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Quantifying the Importance of Non-Suicidal Self-Injury Characteristics in Predicting Different Clinical Outcomes: Using Random Forest Model

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Existing research on non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) among adolescents has primarily concentrated on general risk factors, leaving a significant gap in understanding the specific NSSI characteristics that predict diverse psychopathological outcomes. This study aims to address this gap by using Random Forests to discern the significant predictors of different clinical outcomes. The study tracked 348 adolescents (64.7% girls; mean age = 13.31, SD = 0.91) over 6 months. Initially, 46 characteristics of NSSI were evaluated for their potential to predict the repetition of NSSI, as well as depression, anxiety, and suicidal risks at a follow-up (T2). The findings revealed distinct predictors for each psychopathology. Specifically, psychological pain was identified as a significant predictor for depression, anxiety, and suicidal risks, while the perceived effectiveness of NSSI was crucial in forecasting its repetition. These findings imply that it is feasible to identify high-risk individuals by assessing key NSSI characteristics, and also highlight the importance of considering diverse NSSI characteristics when working with self-injurers.

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The authors thank the National Natural Science Foundation of China for providing funding. We would like to express our gratitude to the school teachers who collaborated with us and the adolescents who participated in the survey. We also extend our thanks to the research assistants for their valuable assistance in conducting the study.


This work was supported by a grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 32271115). funding sponsor had no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication.

Data sharing and declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Authors and Affiliations



Z.W. conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, and drafted the manuscript; Y.C. conceived of the study, and provided critical revision of the manuscript; Z.T. participated in the design of the study and performed the statistical analysis; M.Y. participated in the design and coordination of the study and performed the measurement; D.L. participated in the data management and helped to draft the manuscript; L.J. helped to checked and revised the manuscript; W.Z. participated in the design of the study, and played a critical role in the acquisition of funding for the project. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Wei Zhang.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethical approval

The study was conducted according to the guidelines of the Declaration of Helsinki, and approved by the Ethics in Human Research Committee of Center for Studies of Psychological Application, School of Psychology, South China Normal University (protocol code:SCNU-PSY-2021-098).

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All participants in this study provided informed consent.

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Wang, Z., Chen, Y., Tao, Z. et al. Quantifying the Importance of Non-Suicidal Self-Injury Characteristics in Predicting Different Clinical Outcomes: Using Random Forest Model. J. Youth Adolescence 53, 1615–1629 (2024).

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