Childhood abuse and neglect, attachment states of mind, and non-suicidal self-injury

Jodi Martin, K. Lee Raby, Madelyn H. Labella, Glenn I Roisman

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22 Scopus citations


This investigation examined preoccupied attachment states of mind as both a risk factor for non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and as a mechanism by which prospectively assessed childhood experiences of abuse and neglect predicted the frequency/severity of NSSI behavior up to age 26 years in 164 individuals (83 females) who were followed from birth in the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation. Preoccupied (but not dismissing) states of mind regarding both childhood caregivers and adult romantic partners were correlated with more frequent/severe NSSI. Furthermore, preoccupied states of mind regarding caregivers partially accounted for the association between childhood abuse/neglect and NSSI. This work represents a rare prospective test of a developmental psychopathology framework for understanding NSSI behavior, in which atypical caregiving experiences are carried forward through attachment representations of caregivers that reflect behavioral risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-446
Number of pages22
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 3 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship (Award Number 756-2014-0109) awarded to Jodi Martin, and by a National Institute on Aging grant (R01 AG039453) awarded to Jeffry A. Simpson (PI) to support current assessments of the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Non-suicidal self-injury
  • attachment states of mind
  • mediation
  • neglect
  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse


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