Deliberate self-harm behavior (DSH) can have profound effects on a person’s quality of life, and challenges the health care system. Even though DSH has been associated with aggressive interpersonal behaviors, the knowledge on DSH in persons exhibiting such behaviors is scarce. This study aims to (1) specify the prevalence and character of DSH, (2) identify clinical, neurocognitive, psychosocial, and criminological characteristics associated with DSH, and (3) determine predictors of DSH among young violent offenders. Data were collected from a nationally representative cohort of 270 male violent offenders, 18–25 years old, imprisoned in Sweden. Participants were interviewed and investigated neuropsychologically, and their files were reviewed for psychosocial background, criminal history, mental disorders, lifetime aggressive antisocial behaviors, and DSH. A total of 62 offenders (23%) had engaged in DSH at some point during their lifetime, many on repeated occasions, yet without suicidal intent. DSH was significantly associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, various substance use disorders, being bullied at school, and repeated exposure to violence at home during childhood. Mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and being bullied at school remained significant predictors of DSH in a total regression model. Violent offenders direct aggressive behaviors not only toward other people, but also toward themselves. Thus, DSH must be assessed and prevented in correctional institutions as early as possible, and more knowledge is needed of the function of DSH among offenders.

Natalie Laporte, Andrejs Ozolins, Sofie Westling, Åsa Westrin, Eva Billstedt, Björn Hofvander, Märta Wallinius

PLOS ONE, August 17, 2017

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Deliberate self-harm behavior among young violent offenders [2017]