Even children as young as 7 sometimes cut themselves on purpose, according to a small study believed to be the first to examine self-injury at such early ages . e study was based on
Th interviews with children in the Denver area and central New Jersey, without confirmation from parents or others. But the researchers and independent experts say the results are credible and raise awareness about a disturbing problem.
Overall, almost 8 percent of the third-graders, or 15 kids, said they had ever intentionally hurt themselves by cutting, burning or poking their skin with sharp objects, hitting themselves, or other methods. These children included 8-yearolds and some as young as 7. About two-thirds of the children had done it more than once.
“It’s unfortunately probably more common than we want to think,” said lead researcher Benjamin Hankin, an associate psychology professor at the University of Denver.
The study involved 665 kids, including 197 thirdgraders, and was published online in the journal Pediatrics. The researchers had local schools send letters to families requesting that their children participate in the study. About two-thirds of families agreed; there were no differences among those who chose not to participate that might skew the results, Harkin said.
Many kids, even the youngest ones, find that causing physical pain helps them cope with emotional stress, Hankin said. Some researchers believe physical pain releases feel-good hormones called endorphins that can be calming.
Family strife, troubles in school and bullying are among reasons some kids hurt themselves.