Both nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) and purging behaviour are thought to involve harm to the self. The acquired capability for self-harm model holds that engaging in one self-harming behaviour increases the capability to tolerate harm to the self, thus increasing risk for engaging on other such behaviours. In addition, both behaviours are thought to serve the similar function of relief from distress. We thus tested whether engagement in one of these behaviours predicts the subsequent onset of the other. In a longitudinal design, 1158 first-year college women were assessed for purging and NSSI at two time points. Engagement in NSSI at time 1 predicted the college onset of purging behaviour 9 months later (OR = 2.20, p < .04, CI = 1.07-4.19) beyond prediction from time 1 binge behaviour, and purging behaviour at time 1 predicted the subsequent onset of NSSI (OR = 6.54, p < .01, CI = 1.71-25.04). These findings are consistent with the acquired capability for harm model and with the possibility that the two behaviours serve a similar function.
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Portions of this research were supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in the form of grants: RO1 AA016166 to Gregory T. Smith, F31 AA020767-01 to Jessica Combs and Cralle-Day Young Scholars grant from the University of Kentucky Centre for Research on Violence Against Women to Jessica Combs.
Riley, Elizabeth N.; Davis, Heather A.; Combs, Jessica L.; Jordan, Carol E.; and Smith, Gregory T., "Nonsuicidal Self-injury as a Risk Factor for Purging Onset: Negatively Reinforced Behaviours that Reduce Emotional Distress" (2016). Psychology Faculty Publications. 129.