Source: Frontiers in Psychology. (2023) 12, 610670. SIEC No: 20230816

Theoretical perspectives on non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI; direct and deliberate self-injury without lethal intent such as self-cutting or hitting) have long underscored the affective regulating properties of NSSI. Less attention has been given to the processes through which individuals choose to engage in NSSI, specifically, to regulate their distress. In the present study, we tested one theoretical model in which recent stressful experiences facilitates NSSI through emotional reactivity. Further, we tested whether the indirect link between stressful experiences and NSSI was moderated by several NSSI specific risk factors (e.g., having friends who engage in NSSI). Given the widespread prevalence of NSSI among community-based samples of adolescents and emerging adults, we surveyed 1,125 emerging adults in first-year university at a large academic institution (72% female, Mage = 17.96, 25% with a recent history of NSSI at Time 1). Participants completed an online survey three times (assessments were 4 months apart), reporting on their recent stressful experiences in university, emotional reactivity, NSSI, as well as three NSSI specific risk factors (i.e., close friend engagement in NSSI, high self-disgust, and low fear of pain). As expected, path analysis revealed that there was a significant indirect effect of recent stressful experiences on NSSI engagement, through emotional reactivity. However, this effect was maintained across moderator analyses. These novel findings underscore the salient role of proximally occurring stressors in the prediction of NSSI among emerging adults in university, and can inform developing theoretical perspectives on NSSI.