Barbara L. Fraser <br> MA, MAT, LPC

Children and Self Harm

May 17, 2015
Posted By: Barbara L. Fraser, MA, MAT, LPCC

Self-injurious behavior is becoming more prevalent among children.  Parents, school staff, and other caregivers need to be vigilant to a number of self-destructive behaviors exhibited in children as young as age 7.  In a recent study published in the July 2012 issue of Pediatrics, it was reported that 8 percent of the participants (a group of 665 boys and girls in 3rd, 6th, and 9th graders) admitted to engaging in “nonsuicidal self-injury.”  The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry compiles this list of common self-injurious behavior:

  • carving
  • scratching
  • branding
  • marking
  • picking and pulling skin and hair
  • burning/abrasions
  • cutting
  • biting
  • head banging
  • bruising
  • hitting
  • tattooing
  • excessive body piercing

The study appearing in Pediatrics also revealed that the girls were three times more likely than the boys to self-injure by the time they reach 9th grade.  Some of the reasons why children demonstrate self-injurious behavior are to rebel, to regulate emotions, and to imitate behavior (YouTube has videos that show teens engaging in self-injury).  Parents can help their children by asking questions and having a conversation with them about respecting their bodies.  Parents can also be role models for their children by adhering to a healthy lifestyle with coping skills that fosters resilience and wellness.  For further information on children and self-injury, go to

Overall, it is important to understand that self-injurious behavior is not just happening among pre-teens and teens, but also among children in elementary school.  There is evidence that a small percent of students as young as 3rd grade have exhibited some form of self-harm.


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