Most of the young teenagers reported having hurt themselves only rarely and slightly, but every eighth reported self-injury on five or more occasions, the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper reports.
“All forms of self-injury should be taken seriously even if the whole life situation of the individual has to be taken into account. But there were a small number whose behaviour was particularly serious,” psychologist Jonas Bjärehed at Lund University who conducted the study, told the newspaper.
Bjärehed, together with psychology professor Lars-Gunnar Lundh, interviewed 1,000 young people in two school age-groups in a southern Swedish municipality.
The young teenagers were given a questionnaire and asked to specify nine different ways to inflict self-injury, including burning with cigarettes, cutting, stabbing and scratching themselves.
In total 40 percent of the teenagers reported having deliberately hurt themselves. The most common injury, reported by 20 percent, were those who hit themselves or banged their heads against a wall.
Burning with cigarettes or lighters was the least common form of self-injury with eight percent responding that they had done so.
The study shows that differences between the sexes are not as great as is commonly thought, with the incidence of self-injury among boys on the increase. The phenomenon remains more common among young girls however.
The study indicated that problematic relationships with their parents were common among the teenagers who injured themselves.
“Those that reported lacking a positive relationship with their parents and friends were clearly overrepresented, as were those that were negative about themselves and situation,” the researchers explained.
The new study is scheduled for publication in the autumn and is reported to support previous findings for the age group.