Sociology, Department of


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Published in JOURNAL OF RESEARCH ON ADOLESCENCE, 13(4), 457–474 Copyright © 2003, Society for Research on Adolescence. Used by permission.


Self-mutilation, which is the act of deliberately harming oneself, has been overlooked in studies of homeless and runaway youth. Given their high rates of abuse and mental health disorders, which are associated with self-mutilation, homeless and runaway youth provide an ideal sample in which to investigate factors associated with self-mutilation among a nonclinical population. Based on interviews with 428 homeless and runaway youth aged 16 to 19 years in 4 Midwestern states, the current study revealed widespread prevalence of self-mutilation among these young people. Multivariate analyses indicated that sexual abuse, ever having stayed on the street, deviant subsistence strategies, and meeting diagnostic criteria for depression were positively associated with self-mutilation. The findings are interpreted using stress theory and affect-regulation models.

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