Family Dynamics and Self-Injury Behaviors: A Correlation Analysis


  • Ruth Ogden Halstead, MS, LMFTA, gathered data for this study as a graduate student in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Purdue University Calumet. Ruth Ogden Halstead has since graduated with her MS in marriage and family therapy and is working as a family therapist in Lake County, Indiana.

  • Thomas W. Pavkov, PhD, Professor at Purdue University Calumet and Director of the Institute for Social and Policy Research.

  • Lorna L. Hecker, PhD, Professor of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Purdue University Calumet.

  • Michelle M. Seliner, MSW, LCSW, is COO responsible for clinical and administrative operations of S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES® (Self-Abuse Finally Ends) located in St. Louis, Missouri. Programs include S.A.F.E. Intensive®, S.A.F.E. Expressions® and S.A.F.E. Choice®. 800-DONTCUT®.

  • This study was presented at the INAMFT state conference, April 2009 and the AAMFT national conference, October 2009.


This study tested the relationship between family dynamics and self-injury. A total of 189 participants responded to a web-based survey collecting information related to previous self-injury behaviors and family dynamics. Participants were over 18 years old who had used self-injury (intentionally harming themselves physically to relieve painful emotions without suicidal intent), but who had not used self-injury for over a year. Results indicated that healthy family dynamics were negatively correlated and associated with higher scores of self-injury behaviors. This study offers some evidence that family dynamics influence self-injury behaviors. The implications for family therapy are discussed.