Reported childhood onset of self-mutilation among borderline patients

J Pers Disord. 2006 Feb;20(1):9-15. doi: 10.1521/pedi.2006.20.1.9.


The purpose of this study was to determine the percentage of borderline patients who first engaged in self-mutilation as children and to compare the parameters of their self-harm to those of borderline patients who first harmed themselves at an older age. Two hundred and ninety inpatients meeting both Revised Diagnostic Interview for Borderlines (DIB-R; Zanarini, Gunderson, Frankenburg, & Chauncey, 1989) and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd ed. ref.) (DSM-III-R; APA, 1987) criteria for borderline personality disorder were interviewed about their history of self-mutilation. Of the 91% with a history of self mutilation, 32.8% reported first harming themselves as children (12 years of age or younger), 30.2% as adolescents (13-17 years of age), and 37% as adults (18 or older). Using logistic regression analyses and controlling for baseline age, it was found that those with a childhood onset reported more episodes of self-harm, a longer duration of self-harm, and a greater number of methods of self-harm than either those with an adolescent or adult onset to their self-mutilation. The results of this study suggest that a sizable minority of borderline patients first engage in self-harm as children and that the course of their self-mutilation may be particularly malignant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Psychiatric Department, Hospital
  • Self Mutilation / diagnosis
  • Self Mutilation / epidemiology*