Identifying clinically distinct subgroups of self-injurers among young adults: a latent class analysis

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2008 Feb;76(1):22-27. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.76.1.22.


High rates of nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI; 14%-17%) in adolescents and young adults suggest that some self-injurers may exhibit more or different psychiatric problems than others. In the present study, the authors utilized a latent class analysis to identify clinically distinct subgroups of self-injurers. Participants were 205 young adults with a history of 1 or more NSSI behaviors. Latent classes were identified on the basis of method (e.g., cutting vs. biting vs. burning), descriptive features (e.g., self-injuring alone or with others), and functions (i.e., social vs. automatic). The analysis yielded 4 subgroups of self-injurers, which were then compared on measures of depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and suicidality. Almost 80% of participants belonged to 1 of 2 latent classes characterized by fewer or less severe NSSI behaviors and fewer clinical symptoms. A 3rd class (11% of participants) performed a variety of NSSI behaviors, endorsed both social and automatic functions, and was characterized by high anxiety. A 4th class (11% of participants) cut themselves in private, in the service of automatic functions, and was characterized by high suicidality. Clinical and research implications are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / classification
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / diagnosis*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Social Environment
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology