The influence of peer non-suicidal self-harm on young adults' urges to self-harm: experimental study.
Pitman A., Lowther M., Pike A., Davies J., de Cates A., Buckman JEJ., Robinson O.
OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that exposure to peer self-harm induces adolescents' urges to self-harm, and that this is influenced by individual suggestibility. METHODS: We recruited 97 UK-based adults aged 18-25 years with a recent history of self-harm, measuring baseline suggestibility (Resistance to Peer Influence, RPI) and perceived ability to control urges to self-harm (using an adapted item from the Self-Efficacy to Resist Suicidal Action Scale; SEASA) before and after two self-harm vignettes featuring named peers from the participant's social network (to simulate exposure to peer non-suicidal self-harm) and after a wash-out exposure. We used paired t-tests to compare mean SEASA scores pre- and post-exposure, and linear regression to test for an association between RPI and change in SEASA scores pre- and post-exposure. RESULTS: Perceived ability to control urges to self-harm was significantly reduced following exposure to peer self-harm (t(96)= 4.02, p <0.001, mean difference=0.61; 95% CI=0.31, 0.91), but was not significantly different from baseline after exposure to a wash-out. We found no association between suggestibility and change in urges to self-harm after exposure to peer self-harm. CONCLUSION: Our findings support social influences on self-harm in a sample of young adults, regardless of their individual degree of suggestibility.