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Childhood Parental Invalidation and Young Adult Non-Suicidal Self-Injury
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Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a prevalent behaviour that serves many functions, but is associated with increased distress, impairment, and risk of death by suicide (Andover, Morris, Wren, & Bruzzese, 2012; Burke, Hamilton, Cohen, Stange, & Alloy, 2016). The overall goal of the current project was to make meaningful theoretical and applied contributions for our current understanding and treatment of NSSI. The present research first investigated potential causal mechanisms by which parental invalidation, a potential familial risk factor for NSSI, may lead to engagement in this maladaptive behaviour. Results of Study 1 supported the existence of two serial mediation mechanisms whereby childhood emotional invalidation by parents leads to increased engagement in NSSI: (a) through increased difficulties in emotion regulation and negative urgency impulsivity, and (b) through increased self-criticism and depressive symptoms. Study 2 aimed to validate the retrospective, self-report measure of parental invalidation used in Study 1 (the Invalidating Childhood Environment Scale) by examining its test-retest reliability, and concurrently gathering retrospective sibling-report data. Results supported the reliability and validity of this measure, and thus its use in the current and future research. The goal of Study 3 was to investigate the effectiveness of two interventions designed to help individuals resist their self-critical thoughts, and thereby interrupt the second NSSI mechanism identified in Study 1. It was hypothesized that these interventions would lead to reduced NSSI engagement and associated depressive symptoms. The interventions were not found to be effective in this case, as individuals in both the control and intervention conditions showed significant reductions in both NSSI engagement and depressive symptoms across the study interval. Theoretical implications, practical applications, limitations, and future directions are discussed.