The number of people who harm themselves has increased by several notches over the past few years. A new study shows that the impacts of such behavior are far-reaching. People who self-harm don’t only hurt themselves, but they are also likely to engage in violent acts toward others.
What Did This Study Reveal?
Both in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom, it has been observed that the rates of self-harm have significantly increased among young people. A new study which has been conducted by the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University has found that adolescents who harm themselves are three times more likely to engage in violent crimes.
This study, which was basically conducted to see why individuals self-harm, found that childhood abuse is a factor that causes young people to harm themselves. Therefore, programs which can help prevent either self-harm among young people or maltreatment in their childhood can assist here.
Previous studies have discussed how people who inflict harm on themselves are also likely to be violent toward others. However, it hasn’t been clear what factors increase the risk of violence among self-harmers. This new study which has been published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has looked at this issue from this angle.
Researchers involved in this study compared young people who only self-harmed and those who engaged in ‘dual harm’ behavior. For this, they looked at participants from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study which has 2,232 twins as participants, born in 1994 and 95. These twins have been followed for two decades, their self-harm assessment done through interviews at the age of 18, and violent offences recorded through questionnaires at the same age.
Their police records were also checked at 22. By studying twins, it was found that it wasn’t genetics or family risk factors that led to dual harm behavior. It was found that individuals who self-harm see it as a way to solve problems and hence, harm others as well as their own selves.
The study also found that those who were violent toward themselves and others were more likely to have been victims in adolescence. Moreover, they also had higher psychotic symptoms and were found to have a history of substance dependence. The lead author of the study said, “Our study suggests that dual-harming adolescents have experienced self-control difficulties and been victims of violence from a young age.”
Thus, to help these individuals, a treatment-oriented approach must be taken rather than a punishment-oriented one. Their risk of suicide should be kept a check on, self-control training must be given, and more research needs to be pursued as well.
Self-harm must be controlled in childhood because it holds a tendency to make one violent toward others as well. A study shows that people who engage in this dual harm behavior are more likely to have gone through violence earlier in life. Self-harm is, hence, a behavior which needs to be controlled before it gets worse.