The study titled “Self-, Other-, and Dual-Harm During Adolescence: A Prospective-Longitudinal Study of Childhood Risk Factors and Early Adult Correlates” by Annekatrin Steinhoff et al., published in Psychological Medicine, examines the prevalence, childhood risk factors, and early adult correlates of self-harm, other-harm, and dual-harm (the co-occurrence of self- and other-harm) among adolescents. Utilizing data from the Zurich Project on Social Development from Childhood to Adulthood (z-proso), the study involves 1,482 participants followed from childhood into early adulthood, with self- and other-harm behaviors self-reported at ages 13, 15, and 17.

Key findings include:

  • Prevalence of Harm: 7.2% of adolescents reported dual-harm, 16.2% reported self-harm only, and 13.3% reported other-harm only between ages 13 and 17. There was no significant sex difference in dual-harm, though self-harm was more common among females and other-harm among males.
  • Childhood Risk Factors: Certain childhood experiences like sensation-seeking, parental divorce, and victimization by peers were common risk factors across all harm groups. However, dual-harm was uniquely associated with very high levels of physical aggression, harsh parenting, and low school bonding in childhood. This suggests that interventions targeting these specific childhood experiences could potentially mitigate the risk of dual-harm.
  • Early Adult Correlates: Adolescents with dual-harm exhibited more significant mental health and social impairments in early adulthood, including increased anxiety/depressive symptoms, psychopathy symptoms, homicidal ideations, delinquency, and victimization experiences compared to those with single-harm or no harm. This indicates that dual-harm is a significant marker for a range of psychological and social challenges later in life.

The study emphasizes the need for early and personalized interventions to address the unique risk profiles and outcomes associated with dual-harm. By understanding the specific childhood antecedents and early adult sequelae of dual-harm, professionals can develop more effective prevention and treatment strategies tailored to the needs of these individuals. Future research is encouraged to further investigate the developmental trajectories and interventions for dual-harm to enhance support for affected youth.

Steinhoff, A., Bechtiger, L., Ribeaud, D., Eisner, M., & Shanahan, L. (2023). Self-, other-, and dual-harm during adolescence: A prospective-longitudinal study of childhood risk factors and early adult correlates. Psychological Medicine, 53(9), 3995-4003. doi: