Study: Even 7-year-olds sometimes hurt themselves

by LINDSEY TANNER

(AP) — Even children as young as 7 sometimes cut themselves on purpose, according to a small study believed to be the first to examine self-injury at such early ages.

The study was based on interviews with children in the Denver area and central New Jersey, without confirmation from parents or others. But the researchers and independent experts say the results are credible and raise awareness about a disturbing problem.

Overall, almost 8 percent of the children, or 15 , said they had intentionally hurt themselves by cutting, burning or poking their skin with sharp objects, hitting themselves or other methods. The children included 8-year-olds and some as young as 7. About two-thirds of the children had done it more than once.

"It's unfortunately probably more common than we want to think," said lead researcher Benjamin Hankin, an associate psychology professor at the University of Denver.

The study involved 665 children and was published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics. The researchers had local schools send letters to families requesting that their children participate in the study. About two-thirds of families agreed. There were no differences among those who chose not to participate that might skew the results, Harkin said.

Many kids, even the youngest ones, find that causing physical pain helps them cope with emotional stress, Hankin said. Some researchers believe physical pain releases feel-good hormones called endorphins that can be calming.

Family strife, troubles in school and bullying are among reasons some kids hurt themselves. Details on what caused the behavior weren't included in the published report.

The rate among the youngest children echoes anecdotal reports from teachers, and similar numbers of older kids in other studies have said they started before the age of 10, said Cornell University researcher Janis Whitlock. She was not involved in the current research.

Among older kids, those who hurt themselves are at risk for suicide attempts, although most self-injuring kids don't cause serious harm, said Wendy Lader, president of a St. Louis-based treatment center and clearinghouse for self-injury information.

Children with autism or a major psychiatric disorder that might feature self-injury were excluded from the study.

The studied were racially and ethnically similar to the general U.S. population, but the study wasn't nationally representative. Similar results were found in both locations, which strengthened the findings, Hankin said.

More information: Pediatrics: www.Pediatrics.org

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Two-Thirds of kids with autism have been bullied: study

Mar 30, 2012

(HealthDay) -- Nearly two-thirds of American children with autism have been bullied at some point in their lives, and these kids are bullied three times more often than their siblings without autism, a new ...

Halloween no laughing matter for some kids

Sep 22, 2005

Halloween may seem like so much harmless fun, but a Penn State University researcher in Media, Pa., says the humor might be lost on some younger children.

School climate can affect overweight children for life

Apr 24, 2012

Kids can be really mean – especially to other kids – and school-yard bullying can have serious immediate and long-term effects. One area of increasing concern in this regard is the possibility that overweight or ...

Recommended for you

Youth are quietly losing their hearing

2 hours ago

Children and teens constantly plugged into personal listening devices, such as phones, computers or music players, could be harming their ears without realizing it, says a Purdue University audiologist.

Quality childcare leads to benefits at school age

Aug 26, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Children who receive a quality childcare experience at age 2-3 are more likely to be attentive and better able to deal with their emotions as they start school, according to new research from the University ...

Cold kids hot to trot in winter

Aug 26, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Children are more active in winter than in spring and summer, a breakthrough Deakin University study has found.

User comments