Prominent theories suggest that self-injurious thoughts and behaviours are negatively reinforced by decreased negative affect. The present meta-analysis quantifies effects from intensive longitudinal studies measuring negative affect and self-injurious thoughts and behaviours. We obtained data from 38 of the 79 studies (48%, 22 unique datasets) involving N = 1,644 participants (80% female, 75% white). Individual-participant data meta-analyses revealed changes in affect pre/post self-injurious thoughts and behaviours. In antecedent models, results supported increased negative affect before nonsuicidal self-injurious behaviour (k = 14, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.31) and suicidal thoughts (k = 14, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.19). For consequence models, negative affect was reduced following nonsuicidal self-injurious thoughts (k = 6, 95% CI −0.79 to −0.44), nonsuicidal self-injurious behaviours (k = 14, 95% CI −0.73 to −0.19) and suicidal thoughts (k = 13, 95% CI −0.79 to −0.23). Findings, which were not moderated by sampling strategies or sample composition, support the affect regulation function of self-injurious thoughts and behaviours.
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Although this study was not preregistered, the raw data are publicly available at https://github.com/kskuehn/NA-SITB_meta.
Analysis scripts are also publicly available at https://github.com/kskuehn/NA-SITB_meta.
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This research was supported by a National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (F31MH117827, PI K.S.K.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.
The authors thank the many individuals who contributed to this manuscript by sharing their data. We are grateful for their generosity and hope this work assists in our collective efforts to reduce the global burden of self-injury.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Kuehn, K.S., Dora, J., Harned, M.S. et al. A meta-analysis on the affect regulation function of real-time self-injurious thoughts and behaviours. Nat Hum Behav 6, 964–974 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-022-01340-8
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