Childhood predictors of self-harm, externalised violence and transitioning to dual harm in a cohort of adolescents and young adults

Sarah Steeg*, Bushra Farooq, Peter Taylor, Matina Shafti, Becky Mars, Nav Kapur, Roger T. Webb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


The aetiology of dual harm (co-occurring self-harm and violence towards others) is poorly understood because most studies have investigated self-harm and violence separately. We aimed to examine childhood risk factors for self-harm, violence, and dual harm, including the transition from engaging in single harm to dual harm.

Data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a UK-based birth cohort study, were used to estimate prevalence of self-reported engagement in self-harm, violence, and dual harm at ages 16 and 22 years. Risk ratios were calculated to indicate associations across various self-reported childhood risk factors and risks of single and dual harm, including the transition from single harm at age 16 years to dual harm at age 22.

At age 16 years, 18.1% of the 4176 cohort members had harmed themselves, 21.1% had engaged in violence towards others and 3.7% reported dual harm. At age 22 the equivalent prevalence estimates increased to 24.2, 25.8 and 6.8%, respectively. Depression and other mental health difficulties, drug and alcohol use, witnessing self-harm and being a victim of, or witnessing, violence were associated with higher risks of transitioning from self-harm or violence at age 16 to dual harm by age 22.

Prevalence of dual harm doubled from age 16 to 22 years, highlighting the importance of early identification and intervention during this high-risk period. Several childhood psychosocial risk factors associated specifically with dual harm at age 16 and with the transition to dual harm by age 22 have been identified.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7116-7126
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number15
Early online date31 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023

Structured keywords

  • SASH

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