Psychological, autonomic, and serotonergic correlates of parasuicide among adolescent girls

Dev Psychopathol. 2005 Fall;17(4):1105-27. doi: 10.1017/s0954579405050522.


Although parasuicidal behavior in adolescence is poorly understood, evidence suggests that it may be a developmental precursor of borderline personality disorder (BPD). Current theories of both parasuicide and BPD suggest that emotion dysregulation is the primary precipitant of self-injury, which serves to dampen overwhelmingly negative affect. To date, however, no studies have assessed endophenotypic markers of emotional responding among parasuicidal adolescents. In the present study, we compare parasuicidal adolescent girls (n=23) with age-matched controls (n=23) on both psychological and physiological measures of emotion regulation and psychopathology. Adolescents, parents, and teachers completed questionnaires assessing internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, substance use, trait affectivity, and histories of parasuicide. Psychophysiological measures including electrodermal responding (EDR), respiratory sinus arrhythmia, and cardiac pre-ejection period (PEP) were collected at baseline, during negative mood induction, and during recovery. Compared with controls, parasuicidal adolescents exhibited reduced respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) at baseline, greater RSA reactivity during negative mood induction, and attenuated peripheral serotonin levels. No between-group differences on measures of PEP or EDR were found. These results lend further support to theories of emotion dysregulation and impulsivity in parasuicidal teenage girls.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / physiopathology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiopathology
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Internal-External Control
  • Personality Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / physiopathology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Serotonin / physiology*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*


  • Serotonin