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Self-injury an issue for children as young as 7


Children as young as 7 engage in non-suicidal self-injury such as cutting, burning or hitting themselves, according to a study.

Researchers with the University of Denver and with Rutgers University interviewed 665 children ages 7 to 16 about their lifetime engagement in non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). The authors found that 53 children (8%) in the third, sixth and ninth grades had engaged in NSSI. The percentages by gender were 9% of girls and 6.7% of boys; the percentages by grade were 7.6% of third-graders, 4% of sixth-graders and 12.7% of ninth-graders.

Ninth-grade girls in the study seemed “most at risk” and were three times more likely to self-injure than ninth-grade boys, the authors noted. Girls generally reported cutting or carving their skin, while boys were more likely to hit themselves.

The study found that 1.5% of the children interviewed experienced high levels of distress and reported engaging in NSSI at least five times during the past year, meeting partial criteria for a proposed DSM-5 psychiatric diagnosis of a NSSI disorder.

The authors wrote that children engaging in NSSI tend to feel depressed, angry and consumed with negative thoughts, and the injuries can have a significant effect on academics, relationships and social functioning.

The study appeared June 11 on the website of Pediatrics. To read the abstract and download a PDF of the study, visit


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