Category: Suicide and Self-Injury

PS4- #B48 - Timing of Adverse Childhood Experiences and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: The Potential Role of Executive Functioning

Friday, Nov 17
12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Self-Injury | Child Trauma / Maltreatment | Adolescents

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are robust predictors of nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) in adolescence. Among youth with an ACE history there are large individual differences in these maladaptive outcomes, yet little empirical attention has been paid to potential mediators and moderators. Previous ACEs research has shown that enhanced executive function (EF) mitigates the risk of psychopathology later in life (DePrince et al., 2009). The present study focuses on investigating the mediating effect of EF on the relationship between ACEs and NSSI, and precisely how timing of adversity moderates this association.


Data was gathered during a single laboratory visit with a sample of community based adolescents. Preliminary analyses were run with individuals endorsing an ACEs history (n=11) grouped according to lifetime NSSI history (self-injurers; n=7) and no-NSSI history (non-injurers; n=4). The majority of the sample was female (90%) and the mean age was 16 years (SD=2.49). Measures included the Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors Interview (SITBI; Nock et al., 2007) and an adapted version of the Adverse Childhood Experience questionnaire (Felitti et al., 1998). The adapted ACE questionnaire assessed specific age of exposure to each adverse event. This information was grouped by three developmental periods: childhood-only (0-9 years of age), adolescence-only (10-18 years of age), and chronic lifetime (0-18 years of age). EF was assessed with a computerized Color-Word Stroop Task (Stroop, 1935). EF Interference scores were calculated based on differences in response latencies across congruent, control, and incongruent trials (Golden, 1978; Lansbergen, Kenemans, & Engeland, 2007).


The mean number of ACEs endorsed by participants thus far is 2.5 (SD = 1.6). Adverse events included a history of emotional neglect (81.1%), emotional abuse (54.5%), physical abuse (27.3%), sexual abuse, parental separation, and had a household member in prison (18.2%).  A smaller percentage witnessed domestic violence and lived with someone with a mental illness (9.1%).  All participants in the current sample reported timing of ACEs during their adolescent years (n=11), while a significant proportion also reported ACES during childhood only (n=5) or chronically (n=4). The mean number of past year NSSI episodes was 6.36 (SD =8.35). Data collection is ongoing, and a moderated-mediation analysis will be conducted with a larger sample to investigate the role of EF in the relationship between ACEs and NSSI, as well as the impact of ACE timing on EF skills and NSSI outcomes. The model will be as follows: EF will be included as the mediator, NSSI as the outcome variable, ACEs as the predictor variable, and ACE timing as the moderator, while controlling for age, sex, and history of psychiatric diagnosis. These findings may provide a cognitive framework that explains the individual differences in cognition on history of ACEs that contributes to NSSI onset.

Laura A. Alba

Teachers College, Columbia University
Temecula, California

Kayla DeFazio

MA student
Teachers College, Columbia University

Katherine DiVasto

Lab Manager
Teachers College, Columbia University

Theresa I. Ebo

Teachers College, Columbia University

Eleonora Guzman-Daireaux

Teachers College, Columbia University

Katherine M. Tezanos

Teachers College, Columbia University

Christine B. Cha

Teachers College, Columbia University