Characteristics Associated With Serious Self-Harm Events in Children and Adolescents

Pediatrics. 2023 Jun 1;151(6):e2022059817. doi: 10.1542/peds.2022-059817.


Objectives: To identify patterns of psychiatric comorbidity among children and adolescents with a serious self-harm event.

Methods: We studied children aged 5 to 18 years hospitalized with a neuropsychiatric event at 2 children's hospitals from April 2016 to March 2020. We used Bayesian profile regression to identify distinct clinical profiles of risk for self-harm events from 32 covariates: age, sex, and 30 mental health diagnostic groups. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% credible intervals (CIs) were calculated compared with a reference profile with the overall baseline risk of the cohort.

Results: We included 1098 children hospitalized with a neuropsychiatric event (median age 14 years [interquartile range (IQR) 11-16]). Of these, 406 (37%) were diagnosed with a self-harm event. We identified 4 distinct profiles with varying risk for a self-harm diagnosis. The low-risk profile (median 0.035 [IQR 0.029-0.041]; OR 0.08, 95% CI 0.04-0.15) was composed primarily of children aged 5 to 9 years without a previous psychiatric diagnosis. The moderate-risk profile (median 0.30 [IQR 0.27-0.33]; reference profile) included psychiatric diagnoses without depressive disorders. Older female adolescents with a combination of anxiety, depression, substance, and trauma disorders characterized the high-risk profile (median 0.69 [IQR 0.67-0.70]; OR 5.09, 95% CI 3.11-8.38). Younger males with mood and developmental disorders represented the very high-risk profile (median 0.76 [IQR 0.73-0.79]; OR 7.21, 95% CI 3.69-15.20).

Conclusions: We describe 4 separate profiles of psychiatric comorbidity that can help identify children at elevated risk for a self-harm event and subsequent opportunities for intervention.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self-Injurious Behavior* / epidemiology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior* / psychology