Year: 2022 Source: Child Abuse & Neglect. (2022). 133, 105870. SIEC No: 20220744
Background Child maltreatment is a risk factor for a range of mental disorders later in life, including dangerous self-harm and suicide attempts. A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying this association can inform prevention and intervention. Objective To investigate personality functioning as a potential mediator of the association of childhood abuse and neglect and self-harm and suicide attempts in the general population. Participants and setting Data were drawn from a representative German population sample (N = 2510). Methods Participants filled out the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), OPD Structure Questionnaire (OPD-SQS), and items of the Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors Interview (SITBI). In structural equation models, we operationalized impaired personality functioning as the mediator between childhood abuse and neglect and self-harm. Results Individuals with a history of self-harm (combining suicide attempts, N = 47, and non-suicidal self-injury, N = 83) reported more childhood abuse and neglect (d = 1.39, p < .001) and greater impairments in personality functioning (d = 1.64, p < .001) than the rest of the population. The indirect effect via personality functioning accounted for 48.8 % of the total effect of childhood abuse and neglect on self-harm. In more differentiated analyses, emotional abuse showed the strongest association with self-harm. Only physical and sexual abuse had direct effects. Conclusions The results specify the relationship between child maltreatment and self-harm by demonstrating that it is partly mediated by basic functions of personality assessed using a dimensional measure. These abilities constitute modifiable risk factors that can be addressed by psychotherapy.