Correlates of Cutting Behavior among Sexual Minority Youths and Young Adults

By Walls, N. Eugene; Laser, Julie et al. | Social Work Research, December 2010 | Go to article overview

Correlates of Cutting Behavior among Sexual Minority Youths and Young Adults


Walls, N. Eugene, Laser, Julie, Nickels, Sarah J., Wisneski, Hope, Social Work Research


Using secondary analyses of data from a sample of 265 sexual minority youths, the authors examined correlates of cutting behavior to determine whether patterns are similar to those found in studies of self-injury with community samples of predominately heterosexual youths.

The sample consisted of youths who received services at an urban social service agency serving the sexual minority community; youths from the region attending social events, who located the survey through the Internet, or who were referred from other youth-serving agencies; and youths from out of state who found the survey through the Internet or were referred by youth-serving agencies. Prevalence of cutting was higher than that found in community-based samples of similar age groups. However, similar patterns of risk were found with regard to peer victimization, homelessness, suicidality, and depression. Female and transgender respondents were more likely to have engaged in cutting behavior than were male respondents. No significant race-based differences emerged. Both age and having knowledge of a supportive adult were associated with decreased likelihood of cutting. Additional findings link higher levels of "outness," higher occurrence of suicidality among social network, and higher rates of smoking to increased likelihood of cutting. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.

KEY WORDS: cutting; gay; lesbian; nonsuicidal self-injury; transgender

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Historically, nonsuicidal self-injury research has focused on adult populations, on populations that experience developmental disabilities or psychoses, or on clinical samples (Brodsky, Cloitre, & Dulit, 1995).Although rates of self-injurious behavior have been increasing over the past few decades among the adolescent population (Brener, Krug, & Simon, 2000; Briere & Gil, 1998), it is only more recently that attention has turned to examining NSSI among this population (Prinstein, 2008). This study seeks to contribute to the knowledge about NSSI through analyses of secondary data in a number of ways. First, it examines the prevalence of cutting behavior among a nonclinical sample of sexual minority youths and young adults, a population of young people about which very little is known with regard to NSSI. Second, it examines correlates that predict cutting behavior to determine whether the emergent patterns mirror patterns found in NSSI research with other youths and young adult populations. Third, it examines a number of variables not currently explored in other literature with youths and adolescent populations. Finally, it examines what youths and young adults in the sample report as helping them resist urges to cut.

NOMENCLATURE

The language and definitions used in the literature to indicate intentional self-injurious behavior create confusion. A number of terms, including "self-inflicted injury" (Crowell et al., 2008; Welch, Linehan, Sylvers, Chittams, & Rizvi, 2008) and "deliberate self-harm" (Crawford, Geraghty, Street, & Simonoff, 2003), have been used to refer to a range of behaviors that encompass self-injury with and without suicidal intention. Research that has focused more specifically on self-injurious behavior with nonsuicidal intent has used terms such as "self-injury" (Simeon & Favazza, 2001),"self-mutilation" (Babiker & Arnold, 1997), and "self-injurious behavior" (Whitlock, Eckenrode, & Silverman, 2006; Whitlock & Knox, 2007). In this article, we use the term nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) (Armey & Crowther, 2008; Nock & Mendes, 2008) to indicate self-injurious behavior that occurs without the intent to die, and we use the term deliberate self-harm (DSH) to indicate self-injurious behavior that encompasses both NSSI and behavior with suicidal intent. When the behavior is even more narrowly defined, we use the specific term for that behavior, such as "cutting" or "burning.

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