Deliberate self-harm in young people: Differences in prevalence and risk factors between The Netherlands and Belgium

Unit for Suicide Research, Dept of Psychiatry, University Hospital, De Pintelaan 185, Gent 9000, Belgium.
European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 3.34). 10/2007; 17(3):179-86. DOI: 10.1007/s00787-007-0652-x
Source: PubMed


This study aimed to examine prevalence and risk factors of deliberate self-harm in Dutch and Dutch-speaking Belgian adolescents.
A cross sectional survey using an anonymous self report questionnaire was performed in both countries. Data on 4,431 Belgian and 4,458 Dutch 15-16 year-old school pupils were analyzed.
Results showed a significant difference between the two countries indicating that lifetime and past year prevalence of deliberate self-harm were both 2.8 times higher in Belgian adolescents than in Dutch adolescents. Further analyses identified differences in the prevalence of factors associated with deliberate self-harm, with Belgian adolescents showing significant higher scores on anxiety, less problem-oriented coping and more common use of alcohol and soft drugs. Belgian adolescents were also at higher risk for the experience of several life events in the previous year and before that such as conflicts with peers, parents and partner, being bullied at school or exposure to suicidal behavior in family and friends. In addition, Belgian adolescents showed less communication with family or teachers about their problems and difficulties.
The results of the study suggest that the increased risk of deliberate self-harm among Belgian adolescents may be associated with an increased reporting of several important life events and with additional ineffective problem-solving such as less problem-oriented coping, more substance use and less communication about their problems. These results support the assumption that sociocultural aspects of nations can influence the risk of deliberate self-harm and are important to consider when developing prevention strategies.

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Available from: Erik Jan De Wilde, Dec 18, 2014
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    • "Swahn et al. (2012) reported 20.3% prevalence in a sample of 4,100 students of primary and secondary schools in the urban areas of the U.S.; Plener et al. (2009) found 25.6% prevalence in German adolescents. Similar findings have been reported by a number of other authors (e.g., Izutsu et al., 2006; Portzky, De Wilde & van Heeringen, 2008; Kvernmo & Rosenvinge, 2009). A behaviour which was just recently considered highly pathological has now become such a common occurrence that as many as 20% adolescents try it at least one in their lifetime. "
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to investigate possible associations between parenting styles and the occurrence of self-harm in adolescence, in the context of potential gender differences. In a large-scale survey, we administered a questionnaire asking about basic demographic characteristics, perceived quality of relationships within the respondents’ families, and the occurrence of self-injurious behavior. The questionnaire therefore contained the Self-Harm Behavior Questionnaire (Gutierrez, 2001) and the Self-Harm Inventory (Sansone, Sansone & Wiedermann, 1995), and the Questionnaire for the Assessment of Parenting Styles in the Family (Čáp, 1994). The research sample consisted of 1,466 respondents aged between 11 and 16 years, of whom almost 20% had at least some experience with self-harm. Adolescents living in two-parent families were less likely to harm themselves: Nearly 60% of all adolescents coming from complete families had no experience with self-harm at all. Adolescents from single-parent families, on the other hand, were most frequently found among experimenters and chronic self-harmers – in both groups they constituted more than 20% of respondents. The study yielded interesting findings regarding the quality of respondents’ relationships with parents as well as perceived parenting styles, with self-harm occurring very frequently with weak and inconsistent parenting styles (around 40% each).
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