Objective: Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is strongly associated with difficulties in emotion regulation, but its relationships with maladaptive cognitive processes are less clear.
Method: The current study examined relationships between self-reported NSSI (presence, number of methods, frequency, recency, duration, functions) and negative cognitive processes (rumination, worry, self-criticism, perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness) among 1,357 undergraduates. Cognition variables were submitted to exploratory factor analysis (EFA), and relationships were examined between the resulting factors and NSSI history (among the full sample) and NSSI severity and functions (among those with a history of NSSI).
Results: The EFA derived two higher order cognitive factors: repetitive negative thinking (RNT) and negative self-perception (NSP). Both RNT and NSP were significantly higher among participants with than those without a history of NSSI. Among those with NSSI, NSP, but not RNT, was positively related to lifetime NSSI frequency and number of methods, as well as recency (presence in the past 12 months) and total duration (in years) of NSSI engagement. Moreover, RNT and NSP were positively associated with aggregate intrapersonal (but not interpersonal) functions of NSSI. The two cognitive factors demonstrated differential relationships with the individual intrapersonal NSSI functions.
Conclusions: Higher order categories of cognitive risk factors may have unique relationships with functions and severity of NSSI, with possible implications for more targeted approaches to risk assessment and intervention.
Highlights: Negative thinking and self-perception were higher in people who engage in NSSI. Negative self-perception was associated with greater NSSI severity. Negative thinking and self-perception had different relations to NSSI functions.