Risk Factors for Deliberate Self-Harm Among Female College Students: The Role and Interaction of Childhood Maltreatment, Emotional Inexpressivity, and Affect Intensity/Reactivity


  • This research was part of the author's dissertation, and was previously presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy in November, 2001. This research was supported in part by a grant from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at the University of Massachusetts Boston. I wish to thank Liz Roemer, Matthew Tull, and Alice Carter for their helpful comments on previous drafts of this article.

Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742. E-mail: KLGratz@aol.com


Despite the clinical importance of deliberate self-harm, research on the risk factors for self-harm among nonclinical populations has been limited. This study examined the role of childhood maltreatment, emotional inexpressivity, and affect intensity/reactivity in the self-harm behavior of 249 female college students. Childhood maltreatment and low positive affect intensity/reactivity reliably distinguished women with frequent self-harm from women with no history of self-harm, as did the combination of greater maltreatment, greater inexpressivity, and higher levels of affect intensity/reactivity (global and negative). Among women with a history of self-harm, emotional inexpressivity was associated with more frequent self-harm, as was the combination of greater maltreatment, greater inexpressivity, and lower levels of positive affect intensity/reactivity.