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Keywords:

  • deliberate self-harm;
  • adolescents;
  • psychological;
  • psychosocial;
  • treatment;
  • family dysfunction;
  • depression;
  • hopelessness;
  • impulsivity

Deliberate self-harm in adolescence: a systematic review of psychological and psychosocial factors

Aims. This paper is a systematic review of the research literature that identifies psychological and psychosocial factors associated with adolescent deliberate self-harm (DSH). The aims of this review were to identify the key psychological and psychosocial factors that aid the identification of individuals at risk of DSH, and suggest specific strategies for intervention.

Background. Research has highlighted a parallel rise in rates of DSH referrals to general hospitals and rates of successful suicides in the younger age groups and gender groups. It is also highlighted that pressure on services in responding to these increases may be resulting in an inadequate response to both first-episode DSH and repetition of self-harm. One cause for concern is the lack of adequate psychosocial assessment for adolescents presenting at hospital following a DSH incident. Research of the literature suggests that there may be a paucity of research into after-care strategies in self-harm to prevent repetition and escalation of self-destructive behaviour.

Methods. A systematic review of the literature was conducted to identify the psychological and psychosocial factors relating to DSH.

Results. The results found typical psychological and psychosocial factors associated with DSH in adolescents, although psychosocial factors were less consistently measured because of the breadth of tools and methods used.

Conclusions. It is discussed whether associated factors are causative of DSH or the accompanying symptoms in DSH. It is suggested that positive psychosocial factors may have a part to play in providing protection against DSH behaviour. Therapeutic responses to DSH are suggested as preventative measures against repeat episodes.