Critique – Prinstein et al.: Peer Influence and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury

This is a thought paper I did for my Self-Destructive Behaviors class. Weekly thought papers are loose critiques of that weeks readings designed to help us get more out of research papers and literature reviews, as well as become better writers of such. Prinstein et al paper linked at the bottom.

The purpose of Prinstein et al’s (2010) paper was to discuss two studies focusing on peer influence as a risk factor for adolescent NSSI. The      topic was that, longitudinally, an adolescent’s NSSI would be associated with their friend’s NSSI; additionally, it was stated that this effect        would be stronger in females and in the youngest of participants.

The first study surveyed students at a public middle school, grades 6-8, and their best friend in their grade level, with questions relating to      their own NSSI and depressive symptoms. Measures were taken at the initial point, then again 11 months later. The second utilized                  adolescents ages 12-15 recruited from a psychiatric inpatient facility who answered questions assessing their own NSSI and depressive            symptoms, as well as their perception of their friend’s depressive/self-injurious thoughts and/or behaviors. Measures were taken initially,      then again at 9 and at 18 months post-baseline.

These measures appear to have been appropriate and lend support to their respective hypotheses, but I do think they need to be                    considered together in order to achieve a full picture of the issue at hand. Taken individually there are too many limitations for each result    to be adequately applied globally. They each kind of pick up where the other left off.

The first study found the hypothesis applied solely to girls and the 6th graders; boys, 7th and 8th graders did not have any association. The    lack of association with boys brings up an issue regarding the socialization of boys and a tendency to keep emotions hidden, thus                    reducing the likelihood of reporting NSSI or depressive symptoms to friends. This may be an interesting area for further study, particularly    because it could imply an important missed treatment opportunity for adolescent boys. However, because the second study had similar      findings it may lend more support to the idea that NSSI is a means by which adolescents regulate emotions. Boys and girls have different

emotional regulatory strategies; talking and sharing of feeling is much more common for girls, and because of a demonstrated imitative effect (as discussed in the second study) females would be more likely to exhibit more NSSI due to the amount of exposure they would have to it as compared to males.

The second study found that if an adolescent engages in NSSI at baseline they are likely to have an increased perception that their friends are exhibiting depressive symptoms at the next measurement; additionally, if, at baseline, an adolescent perceives that their friends are exhibiting depressive symptoms they are more likely to engage in NSSI at the next measurement. This implies the possibility of a reliable timeline for predicting and finding potential interventions for NSSI and related symptoms. It also shows a need for further discussion of the effect of perception of the way an adolescent’s friends feel on that adolescent’s behavior

Peer conformity and body language as evidence of approval is also discussed. This lends evidence toward the imitative effect of NSSI among peers. It would be interesting to discover the incidence of adolescents who engage in NSSI via a peer-pressure mechanism as a primary motivator. Peer-pressure may be too strong of a term; however, to engage in such behavior for these reasons would demonstrate a marked vulnerability to social pressures and might be a predictor for some other psychiatric illness, or a predictor for future self-destructive behaviors. Additional measures could include desire for approval, attention seeking behaviors, self-esteem, and reassurance-seeking behaviors.


Prinstein, M. J. et al. (2010). Peer influence and nonsuicidal self-injury: Longitudinal results in community and clinically referred adolescent samples. J of Abnormal Psychology, 38, 669-682



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