Risk Factors for Non-Suicidal Self-Injury Among Trans Youth

J Sex Med. 2016 Mar;13(3):402-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2016.01.003.


Introduction: Previous research has reported high levels of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) in trans populations and younger age has been identified as a risk factor.

Aims: To explore the prevalence of NSSI in a large group of young trans people and to identify risk factors for this group.

Main outcome measures: Sociodemographic variables and measurements of NSSI (Self-Injury Questionnaire), psychopathology (Symptom Checklist-90-Revised), self-esteem (Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale), victimization (Experiences of Transphobia Scale), interpersonal functioning (Inventory of Interpersonal Problems), and social support (Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support).

Methods: Two hundred sixty-eight young people attending a national gender clinic completed questionnaires assessing presence and frequency of NSSI and levels of general psychopathology, depression, anxiety, interpersonal problems, self-esteem, social support, transphobia, and information on hormone treatment.

Results: A lifetime presence of NSSI was identified in 46.3% of patients and 28.73% reported currently engaging in NSSI (within at least the past few months). Analyses showed that those with a lifetime presence of NSSI had significantly greater general psychopathology, lower self-esteem, had suffered more transphobia, and experienced greater interpersonal problems than those without NSSI. Findings were similar when comparing current with non-current NSSI. Overall, natal male patients reported less social support than natal female patients, but current NSSI was more common in natal female patients. Regression analyses confirmed that natal female gender and greater general psychopathology predicted current and lifetime NSSI. Further analyses confirmed that general psychopathology itself could be predicted by transphobic experiences, low self-esteem, and interpersonal problems, but not by the use of cross-sex hormones.

Conclusion: These findings confirm that NSSI is common in trans youth and emphasize the need for interventions that decrease transphobia, increase social support, and help trans youth navigate their relationships with others to decrease psychopathology and NSSI.

Keywords: Gender Dysphoria; Non-Suicidal Self-Injury; Psychopathology; Suicide; Trans; Transgender; Transsexual; Young People; Youth.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Checklist
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Perception
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology*
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transgender Persons / psychology*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult