Youngsters who inflict self-harm more likely to commit crimes

Washington: According to a new research from the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University, youngsters who inflict self-harm are three times more likely to commit violent crime than those who do not.

The study was published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

According to the study, young people who harm themselves and commit violent crime are more likely to have a history of childhood maltreatment and lower self-control. According to the authors, programs aimed at preventing childhood maltreatment or improving self-control among self-harmers could help prevent violent crime.

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Notably, rates of self-harm have increased substantially among adolescents in recent years both in the US and the UK.

Speaking about the study, lead author Leah Richmond-Rakerd said, ” We know that some individuals who self-harm also inflict harm on others.” He further added, “What has not been clear is whether there are early-life characteristics or experiences that increase the risk of violent offending among individuals who self-harm. Identifying these risk factors could guide interventions that prevent and reduce interpersonal violence.”

In the study, Richmond-Rakerd and researchers from Duke and King’s College London compared young people who engage in “dual-harm” behaviour with those who only self-harm.

Participants were from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a nationally representative U.K. cohort of 2,232 twins born in 1994 and 1995 who have been followed across the first two decades of life.

“By comparing twins who grew up in the same family, we were able to test whether self-harm and violent crime go together merely because they come from the same genetic or family risk factors,” said Terrie E. Moffitt of Duke University, founder of the E-Risk Study.

“They did not. This means that young people who self-harm may see violence as a way of solving problems and begin to use it against others as well as themselves,” he added.

Researchers also found that those who committed violence against both themselves and others were more likely to have experienced victimisation in adolescence. They also had higher rates of psychotic symptoms and substance dependence.

“Our study suggests that dual-harming adolescents have experienced self-control difficulties and been victims of violence from a young age,” said Richmond-Rakerd. “A treatment-oriented rather than punishment-oriented approach is indicated to meet these individuals’ needs.”


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