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Meaning in Life Moderates Relations between Personality and Temperament and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury in Hospitalized Adolescents

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Previous research indicates that sensation seeking, emotion dysregulation, and impulsivity are predictive of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). A body of research supports that meaning in life predicts improved mental health and well-being, including fewer suicidal thoughts and attempts, yet no research has examined the moderating effects of meaning in life on the relations between personality and temperament and NSSI. Given the growing incidence rates of NSSI among adolescents and the potential lifelong consequences of NSSI, it is imperative to better understand the factors that reduce the rates at which adolescents in a clinical sample engage in NSSI. The present study investigates if the protective factors of meaning in life moderate the relation between personality and temperament variables and NSSI among 126 adolescents (71% female, Mage = 16.1, SD = 1.1, range 13–18, 80% White) residing in an inpatient psychiatric hospital who endorsed NSSI in the last 12 months. Results from hurdle modeling indicate that two subtypes of meaning in life, presence of meaning in life and search for meaning of life, may serve as robust protective factors against engagement in NSSI among a clinical sample of adolescents. Additionally, results suggest that search for meaning, but not presence of meaning in life, variables moderate the relations between personality and temperament and NSSI. Results provide evidence that meaning in life is an understudied variable of importance in understanding how to prevent or treat NSSI. It also underscores the need to develop, refine, and test meaning-making interventions.
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Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2022) 51:16221635
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-022-01615-3
EMPIRICAL RESEARCH
Meaning in Life Moderates Relations between Personality and
Temperament and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury in Hospitalized
Adolescents
Bradley T. Conner 1Shane D. Kentopp1Maeve B. ODonnell2Gemma T. Wallace1Jessica L. Morse1
Patrice A. Arkfeld1Michael F. Steger1Rachel Rebecca3
Received: 14 January 2022 / Accepted: 9 April 2022 / Published online: 27 April 2022
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2022
Abstract
Previous research indicates that sensation seeking, emotion dysregulation, and impulsivity are predictive of non-suicidal
self-injury (NSSI). A body of research supports that meaning in life predicts improved mental health and well-being,
including fewer suicidal thoughts and attempts, yet no research has examined the moderating effects of meaning in life on
the relations between personality and temperament and NSSI. Given the growing incidence rates of NSSI among adolescents
and the potential lifelong consequences of NSSI, it is imperative to better understand the factors that reduce the rates at
which adolescents in a clinical sample engage in NSSI. The present study investigates if the protective factors of meaning in
life moderate the relation between personality and temperament variables and NSSI among 126 adolescents (71% female,
Mage =16.1, SD =1.1, range 1318, 80% White) residing in an inpatient psychiatric hospital who endorsed NSSI in the last
12 months. Results from hurdle modeling indicate that two subtypes of meaning in life, presence of meaning in life and
search for meaning of life, may serve as robust protective factors against engagement in NSSI among a clinical sample of
adolescents. Additionally, results suggest that search for meaning, but not presence of meaning in life, variables moderate the
relations between personality and temperament and NSSI. Results provide evidence that meaning in life is an understudied
variable of importance in understanding how to prevent or treat NSSI. It also underscores the need to develop, rene, and test
meaning-making interventions.
Keywords Search for Meaning Presence of Meaning Experience Seeking Risk Seeking Urgency
Introduction
Research on non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), while exten-
sive, has done little to improve prediction accuracy for who
will engage in NSSI, and what factors might protect against
or increase risk for engagement in NSSI above chance (Fox
et al., 2019). Lack of positive research ndings limits the
ability to improve prevention and intervention efcacy. The
lack of improvement in models is partly because researchers
often measure only direct effects of known predictors,
ignoring complex interactions among variables and partly
because researchers may not yet know the entire set of
potential predictors of NSSI. The goal of the current study
was to test a new potential protective factor, meaning in life,
that could reduce risk for NSSI and attenuate relations
between direct predictors and NSSI in a clinical sample of
adolescents.
NSSI is the intentional, self-inicted, socially unac-
ceptable damaging of body tissues without the intent to end
ones life (Nock, 2010). Current diagnostic nosology does
not conceptualize NSSI as a distinct syndrome (Zetterqvist,
2015); the International Classication of Diseases 10
includes intentional self-harm as a Z code (i.e., a factor that
inuences the need for services but is not a disorder), while
*Bradley T. Conner
brad.conner@colostate.edu
1Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, 1876
Campus Mail, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
2Palliative Care and Resilience Lab, Center for Clinical and
Translational Research, Seattle Childrens Hospital, Seattle, WA,
USA
3UCHealth Mountain Crest Behavioral Health Center, Fort Collins,
CO, USA
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