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Cutting Increasing Among Adolescents, Study

Update Date: Dec 09, 2013 04:59 PM EST

Teenage girls are more likely than teenage boys to self-harm, according to a new study.

Researchers also found that a fifth of adolescents who have self-harmed have cut themselves in front of others.

The latest study also revealed that deliberate cutting is normalizing, as an increasing number of self-reported popular kids are self-harming.

Lead researcher Dr. Shelley James of Massey University in New Zealand claims that self-harm has increased over the last decade. She claims that adolescent girls are also up to eight times more likely to self-harm than their male counterparts.

The latest study involved 387 girls between the ages of 13 and 16. Overall, 84 girls identified as self-harmers.

After comparing responses on the number of measures of underlying psychological difficulties between two groups, researchers found that underlying beliefs of vulnerability and low levels of parent influence were more common among self-harming girls. Researchers also found that there were always underlying deeper emotional problems attached to self-harming behavior.

Researchers said the latest findings debunk traditional stereotypes of self-harmers and uncovered unexpected behaviors.

"There were some surprising results," James said in a news release. "The number of girls who had actually harmed in front of other people was staggering to me."

"Approximately 23 per cent of self-harming kids had harmed in front of other people, and nearly 12 per cent had actually harmed in conjunction with another person, so they had harmed together. I didn't expect to see those kinds of figures."

While girls reported they needed high-levels of secrecy, researchers said that their actions suggested otherwise. Researchers found that people knew they self-harmed. James and her team suggest that the secrecy may apply more to parents and peers than to friends.

Furthermore, researchers found that self-harm was no longer considered shocking or associated exclusively to the disenfranchised or those with serious mental health problems.

"You have this stereotypical image of this reclusive, socially awkward person that self-harms," James explained. "But the self-harming girls were far more likely to self-identify as being among the popular kids in school, and self-harming was not restricted to those commonly seen as the highly troubled teens."

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