A Proposed Model of Non-suicidal Self-injury, Negative Life Events, Coping, and Emotional Regulation

Julie T. Weismoore

Advisor: Christianne Esposito-Smythers, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Jim Maddux, Anastasia Kitsantas, Jeffery Pollard

Student Union I, Center for Psychological Services Room 3129
August 01, 2011, 10:30 AM to 07:00 AM


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between recent stress, perceived coping efficacy and skills, emotion regulation, and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) in an undergraduate sample.  The sample included 159 undergraduate students, who were predominately female (73.6%), of non-Hispanic ethnicity (10.1%), and between the ages of 17 to 45 (M=20.0, SD=2.8).  Participants completed a semi-structured interview and self-report measures to assess negative life events, daily hassles, optimism, coping self-efficacy, coping flexibility, active coping skills, emotion regulation difficulties, and recent NSSI.  Data were analyzed using Mplus.  Higher recent stress significantly predicted the likelihood of engaging in “mild” NSSI behaviors (e.g., biting one’s lip or picking at a scab), but did not predict the likelihood or frequency of engaging in “severe” NSSI behaviors (e.g., cutting or burning).  Poorer self-regulation, which included measures of coping and emotion regulation, was found to predict the likelihood of engaging in “severe” NSSI behaviors.  However, it did not predict the likelihood of engaging in “mild” NSSI behavior or the frequency “severe” NSSI behaviors. Contrary to hypotheses, self-regulation was not found to moderate the relationship between recent stress and NSSI.  These results highlight the role that one’s personal characteristics, namely self-regulatory beliefs and skills, play in NSSI behavior.  They suggest that an emphasis should be placed on personal characteristics in future research and theories of NSSI.  Clinically, results also suggest that it is important to assess for deficits in self-regulation abilities and to address weaknesses by strengthening coping and emotion regulation skills in order to reduce the likelihood of “severe” NSSI behaviors.