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:
- picking and pulling skin and hair
- head banging
- 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 http://aacap.org.
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.