Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Gutierrez, Peter M.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Self-mutilation; Adolescent psychology


Clinical interest in self-injurious behavior, deliberate actions that alter or damage body tissue without suicidal intent, has been increasing in recent years. Research points to an increasing prevalence of self-injury among adolescents within both clinical and non-clinical settings. Negative affect such as depression and hopelessness have been found to be affiliated with self-injurious behaviors, and some suicidologists suggest that the experience of mental pain, or psychache, is crucial for any type of self-harm to occur. It has also been postulated that having a dysfunctional attitude towards one's body is associated with a greater propensity for self-injury, yet this has not been explored. The current study examines the importance of the body in self-injury by testing a model in which body regard is specified as a mediator between negative affect, mental pain, and self-injury. Data were collected from 53 adolescent inpatients and 233 high school students. Participants completed measures assessing negative affect, mental pain, body regard, and self-injurious behaviors. Approximately 27% of the sample reported at least one act of self-injurious behavior. Structural equation modeling analyses found support for the hypothesized model but found that mental pain was not significantly associated with self-injury in the current sample. Results also confirmed that body regard fully mediated the relationship between negative affect and self-injury. The supported model was tested for invariance across the sexes, and analyses examining the accuracy of the model between males and females found that the model provided an equivalent fit across the sexes. This finding implies that body regard is a key risk factor for self-injury in both sexes. Implications of these findings are discussed within the context of increasing our understanding of the potential role of the body in self-injury, along with suggestions for existing and future treatments of this behavior.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [132]-148).


v, 174 pages




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