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Prospective and Concurrent Affective Dynamics in Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors: An Examination in Young Adult Women

NCJ Number
Behavior Therapy Volume: 52 Issue: 5 Dated: 2021 Pages: 1158-1170
Date Published
13 pages

This study presents data from an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) of a large, diverse sample of young adult women with high rates of self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SITB) to examine negative affect (NA) and positive affect (PA) dynamics (mean intensity, variability, and inertia).


Affective dynamics, assessed using ecological momentary assessment (EMA), provide a nuanced understanding of within-person fluctuations of negative affect (NA) and positive affect (PA) in daily life. NA and PA dynamics have been associated with psychopathology and response to psychological treatments. NA and PA dynamics have been rarely studied concurrently in association with self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SITB), transdiagnostic difficulties encountered regularly in clinical and community settings. The current study considered the prospective associations between past-year suicidal thoughts and past-year non-suicidal self-injury and affective dynamics, as well as the concurrent associations between affective dynamics, EMA-reported suicidal thoughts, and EMA-reported urges for non-suicidal self-injury. Results demonstrate that elevated mean NA and NA variability were robustly associated with all types of SITB assessed prospectively or concurrently. Interestingly, these associations were weakest for past-year non-suicidal self-injurious behaviors, relative to past-year and concurrent suicidal or non-suicidal self-injurious thoughts. Past-year suicidal thoughts further predicted increased NA inertia. Decreased PA inertia was associated with past-year non-suicidal self-injury behavior, as well as concurrent EMA suicidal thoughts. No associations  (prospective or concurrent) were found between SITB and mean PA intensity or PA variability. These results highlight the importance of understanding affective processes to develop real-world interventions to prevent non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior in daily life. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2021