Deliberate self-harm among underserved adolescents: the moderating roles of gender, race, and school-level and association with borderline personality features

Personal Disord. 2012 Jan;3(1):39-54. doi: 10.1037/a0022107.


Despite increasing research on the correlates and functions of deliberate self-harm (DSH) among community youth, less is known about the subsets of youth most at-risk for DSH or the relevance of borderline personality (BP) pathology to DSH within this population. This study sought to extend research on the characteristics associated with DSH by examining the ways in which gender, racial/ethnic background, and school-level interact to influence DSH among ethnically diverse youth in a relatively poor and underserved area, as well as the extent to which levels of BP features account for differences in rates of DSH across subsets of youth. Middle- and high-school students (N = 1931) from six public schools in Mississippi completed self-report measures of DSH and BP features. Consistent with past research, 39% of the youth in our sample reported engaging in DSH. However, rates of DSH varied as function of gender, racial/ethnic background, and school-level (as well as their interactions), with African American boys reporting higher rates of most DSH behaviors than their peers (particularly in middle-school). One notable exception to this pattern pertains to the specific behavior of cutting, for which both White girls and African American boys reported the highest rates. Further, although BP features were reliably associated with DSH status (above and beyond these demographic characteristics), they did not account for the interactive effect of gender and race on rates of DSH. Findings highlight the importance of continuing to examine DSH and its correlates among more diverse groups of youth.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / ethnology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Mississippi / epidemiology
  • Poverty Areas
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Health
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / ethnology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / etiology*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Sex Factors