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Bodily Self-Harm and Its Relationship to Childhood Abuse Among Women in a Primary Care Setting

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 5 Issue: 2 Dated: February 1999 Pages: 155-163
M W Wiederman; R A Sansone; L A Sansone
Date Published
9 pages
This study explored the relationship between five forms of childhood abuse or trauma and three types of bodily self-injury among women in a primary care setting.
Participants were 147 women who presented for routine gynecological care to a female family physician in a health maintenance organization. Participants completed a self-report questionnaire that explored their exposure to five different areas of trauma or abuse: sexual, physical, and emotional abuse; physical neglect; and witnessing violence. The self-report questionnaire also explored whether respondents had ever intentionally engaged in each of three behaviors: cutting oneself, hitting oneself, or head banging. Of the 147 women, 32 (21.8 percent) reported having experienced childhood sexual abuse, 27 (18.4 percent) physical abuse, 40 (27.2 percent) emotional abuse, 10 (6.8 percent) physical neglect, and 44 (29.9 percent) witnessing violence. In univariate analyses, all forms of abuse except physical neglect were related to an increased likelihood of bodily self-harm. In a logistic regression analysis, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and witnessing violence were uniquely related to an increased likelihood of bodily self- injury. The results suggest that the direct experience or observation of body violation may developmentally precede subsequent bodily self-injury in some individuals. 2 tables and 28 references