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Timing of Puberty Linked to Risk for Self-Harm in Adolescence

Earlier puberty associated with higher risk for self-harm at 16 years of age

FRIDAY, Oct. 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Earlier-developing adolescents represent a group at increased risk for self-harm, according to a study published online Oct. 6 in Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences.

Elystan Roberts, from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues used data from 5,369 participants (47 percent male) from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to evaluate the association between pubertal timing and self-harm during adolescence and young adulthood.

The researchers found that later pubertal timing (measured by age at peak height velocity [aPHV]) was associated with a reduced risk for self-harm at 16 years in both sexes (female: adjusted per-year increase in aPHV odds ratio [OR], 0.85; male: OR, 0.72). Findings were similar for self-harm with and without suicidal intent. The evidence for an association of pubertal timing with risk for self-harm by age 21 years in female participants did not reach statistical significance (adjusted per-year increase in aPHV OR, 0.91; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.80 to 1.04). There also was no association with risk for self-harm by age 21 years in male participants (adjusted per-year increase in aPHV OR, 0.99; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.74 to 1.31).

“Future research is needed to identify the modifiable mechanisms underlying the association between pubertal timing and self-harm risk in order to develop interventions to reduce self-harm in adolescence,” conclude the authors.

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