Self-Harm in Young Offenders


  • All authors have completed the Unified Competing Interest form at (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare that: all authors received no support from company for the submitted work; all authors have no relationships with companies that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous 3 years; and all authors have no non-financial interests that may be relevant to the submitted work.

    The authors wish to thank Dr. Penny Weller from the Centre for Adolescent Health, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Royal Children's Hospital, Victoria, Australia, for her contributions to the study. GP and LD are supported by research fellowship from Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council. This study was funded by National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Australia and the Goldman Sachs Foundation. We also acknowledge the support of the Victorian Government's Operational Infrastructure Program.

    GP, CC, LD, and SK were responsible for the study concept and design and supervised the study. GP and CC acquired the data, which was analyzed and interpreted by SH with supervision from CC. RB drafted the manuscript, which was critically revised for important intellectual content by GP, PM, CC, LD, SK, and SH. GP is the guarantor


The prevalence and correlates of self-harm and suicidal behavior in 515 young offenders (mean age 17.3 years, SD = 1.7) serving community-based orders (CBOs; n = 242) or custodial sentences (n = 273) in Victoria, Australia, are described. Results from structured interviews showed that 83 (16.1%) participants reported self-harming in the previous 6 months, and this was more common among those serving custodial sentences than those serving CBOs (19.4% vs. 12.4%; OR 3.10, 95% CI: 1.74–5.55). Multiple incidents were more common in females and 24% (95% CI: 19–39) of participants who had self-harmed reported having done so with suicidal intent. Self-harm was associated with recent bullying victimization, expulsion from school, past year violent victimization, cannabis dependence, and risk-taking behavior in the preceding year. The epidemiological profile of self-harm in this population appears to be distinct from that seen in the general population. Young offenders who self-harm are a vulnerable group with high rates of psychiatric morbidity, substance misuse problems, and social risk factors. They may benefit from targeted psychological interventions designed specifically to address impulsivity, delivered both within–and during the transition from–the youth justice system.