Non-Suicidal Self-Injury in First-Year College Students: The Testing of a Nonlinear Integrated Model

Natasha Pryde Trujillo, Purdue University


Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is an increasing concern among college students (Whitlock, Muehlenkamp, & Eckenrode, 2008). First-year college students, who are in the midst of transitioning to the college environment, are often at increased risk for problematic behaviors or maladaptive coping as they adjust to the varied changes that take place during this crucial developmental phase (Chickering & Reisser, 1993, Fromme, Corbin, & Krause, 2008). First-year college students may be at particular risk for NSSI engagement because of the developmental, interpersonal, and intrapersonal demands that accompany the transition to college. Further, first-year students who have experienced aversive life events connected to parental absence or unmet developmental needs may be even more likely to engage in NSSI behaviors. The overarching goal of the present study, guided by the integrated theoretical model of NSSI (Nock, 2010), was to examine the relationships between static aversive background factors (e.g., parental absence, unmet needs), current malleable interpersonal (i.e., social constraint) and intrapersonal (i.e., sense-making) vulnerabilities, and stress responses (i.e., stress in the transition to college) in connection with lifetime frequency of NSSI in first-year college students. Participants for the present study were 440 first-year undergraduate students attending a large, Midwest University. A MANOVA suggested that lifetime frequency of NSSI did not differ based on parental absence; however, those who experienced temporary or both types of parental absence reported greater childhood unmet needs than did those with no parental absence. A multiple hierarchical regression analysis indicated that both emotional/cognitive and physical/supervisory unmet needs mediated the relationship between parental absence status and lifetime frequency of NSSI. Moreover, a separate multiple hierarchical regression analysis suggested that neither social constraint, sense-making, nor stress in the transition to college moderated the relationship between unmet needs and lifetime frequency of NSSI. However, social constraint was positively associated with lifetime frequency of NSSI. Finally, sexual orientation was strongly associated with lifetime frequency of NSSI. The results of the present study have the potential to increase understanding of parent-child relationship variables that contribute to NSSI engagement, to aid in the conceptualization and intervention selection for clinical work with first-year college students, and to inform future research regarding NSSI with first-year college students.




Servaty-Seib, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Counseling Psychology

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server