~8 Percent of Children Engage in Nonsuicidal Self-Injury

Prevalence highest among ninth-grade girls; girls tend to cut or carve skin while boys hit themselves

MONDAY, June 11 (HealthDay News) -- Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) occurs in about 8 percent of children and adolescents and the prevalence is highest among ninth-grade girls, who tend to engage in cutting or carving of the skin, according to a study published online June 11 in Pediatrics.

In an effort to assess the rates and behavioral methods of NSSI and the effects of age and gender, Andrea L. Barrocas, of the University of Denver, and colleagues performed a community survey of 665 youth who were interviewed regarding their NSSI behaviors.

The researchers found that 8 percent of the sample reported engaging in NSSI, including 9 percent of girls and 6.7 percent of boys. NSSI engagement was reported by 7.6 percent of third-graders, 4.0 percent of sixth-graders, and 12.7 percent of ninth-graders. By the ninth grade, more than three times as many girls as boys reported NSSI (19 versus 5 percent). For girls, the primary methods of inflicting self-injury included cutting and carving the skin, whereas boys were more likely to hit themselves.

"Rates of NSSI surged dramatically from childhood into adolescence, especially for girls," the authors write. "Three times as many ninth-grade girls reported engaging in NSSI compared with ninth-grade boys. In addition, there were grade and gender differences in behavioral methods of NSSI engagement."

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