Pubertal timing and self-harm

  • Elystan G Roberts

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Self-harm is a current and growing public health concern. Previous research has
identified the timing of pubertal development relative to one’s peers as a factor associated
with a range of adverse health outcomes, including self-harm. However, existing studies are limited by a range of factors, including cross-sectional research designs, the measurement of only suicide attempts or only non-suicidal self-harm, no follow-up beyond adolescence, limiting analysis to females only, using subjective measures of pubertal timing, and failing to adjust for confounders.

I used longitudinal birth cohort data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents
and Children (ALSPAC) to examine the association between pubertal timing, measured using age at menarche in females and age at peak height velocity (aPHV) in both sexes, and selfharm at age 16 and 21 years. I also investigated whether the association at age 16 years was mediated by having older friends, engaging in risky behaviours, and experiencing more depressive symptoms. Finally, I used Mendelian Randomization to test the causality of the association between age at menarche and self-harm.
Date of Award23 Mar 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorBecky Mars (Supervisor), Carol J Joinson (Supervisor), David Gunnell (Supervisor) & Abigail Fraser (Supervisor)

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