A prior episode of deliberate self-harm (DSH) is one of the strongest predictors of future completed suicide. Identifying antecedents of DSH may inform strategies designed to reduce suicide rates. This study aimed to determine whether individual and socio-ecological factors collected in childhood and adolescence were associated with later hospitalisation for DSH.
Longitudinal follow-up of a Western Australian population-wide random sample of 2,736 children aged 4-16 years, and their carers, from 1993 until 2007 using administrative record linkage. Children were aged between 18 and 31 years at end of follow-up. Proportional hazards regression was used to examine the relationship between child, parent, family, school and community factors measured in 1993, and subsequent hospitalisation for DSH.
There were six factors measured in 1993 that increased a child's risk of future hospitalisation with DSH: female sex; primary carer being a smoker; being in a step/blended family; having more emotional or behavioural problems than other children; living in a family with inconsistent parenting style; and having a teenage mother. Factors found to be not significant included birth weight, combined carer income, carer's lifetime treatment for a mental health problem, and carer education.
The persistence of carer smoking as an independent risk factor for later DSH, after adjusting for child, carer, family, school and community level socio-ecological factors, adds to the known risk domains for DSH, and invites further investigation into the underlying mechanisms of this relationship. This study has also confirmed the association of five previously known risk factors for DSH.