• Amarendra Gandhi
  • Koen Luyckx
  • Geert Molenberghs
  • Imke Baetens
  • Lien Goossens
  • Shubhada Maitra
  • Laurence Claes

Background: Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is defined as the repetitive, direct, and deliberate destruction of one's body tissue without an intention to die. Existing cross-sectional research indicates that the association between maternal/peer attachment and NSSI is mediated by identity synthesis and confusion. However, longitudinal confirmation of the aforementioned mediation models is necessary as cross-sectional models are known to be biased. Consequently, the aim of the present study was to investigate whether identity formation mediates the association between attachment and NSSI in a longitudinal design. Methods: Three waves of self-report questionnaires data (1 year apart) were collected on maternal and peer attachment, identity, and NSSI from students of a high school in Belgium (at Time 1: Mean age = 15.0 years, SD = 1.85, range = 11-19 years, 50.6% female). Both cross-lagged (between-person) and parallel process latent growth curve (within-person) mediation analyses were used to test the mediation models. Results: Findings of the cross-lagged analyses indicated unidirectional associations among the study variables, that is, from attachment to identity to NSSI. Parallel process latent growth mediation analyses showed that the association between the slope of maternal attachment and the slope of NSSI was mediated by the slopes of identity synthesis and confusion. Peer attachment models did not fit the data. Conclusion: The current work demonstrated that dysfunctional maternal and peer attachment may lead to disturbances in identity formation, which, in turn, may lead to increased NSSI. Additionally, within-person analysis indicated that the growth rate of maternal attachment predicted the growth rate of NSSI through the growth rate of identity synthesis and confusion. The clinical relevance of these findings is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Pages (from-to)7
Number of pages11
JournalChild and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2019

    Research areas

  • Cross-lagged mediation, Identity synthesis and confusion, Longitudinal follow-up study, Maternal and peer attachment, Non-suicidal self-injury, Parallel process latent growth class mediation models

ID: 44572803