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Risk Factors for and Functions of Deliberate Self-Harm: An Empirical and Conceptual Review

Authors

  • Kim L Gratz

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Massachusetts, Boston
      Address correspondence to Kirn L. Gratz, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125. E-mail: klgratz@aol.com
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Address correspondence to Kirn L. Gratz, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125. E-mail: klgratz@aol.com

Abstract

Given the clinical importance of deliberate self-harm and the need for further research informing the treatment and prevention of this behavior, a review of the extant literature on the risk factors for and functions of self-harm is needed. In this article, I review empirical and theoretical literature on the following potential risk factors for self-harm: childhood sexual and physical abuse, neglect, childhood separation and loss, security of attachment to caregivers, and emotional reactivity and intensity. Literature on the emotion regulating function of self-harm behavior is also reviewed. Future research is needed on the interaction of individual and environmental risk factors in the development of self-harm, as well as on the experi-entially avoidant function of this behavior.

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