A recent study has found that the invalidation of teens may lead to self harm, especially if the source of that invalidation or disapproval is a family member or peer.

Invalidation of Teens May Lead to Self HarmResearchers at Brown University and Butler Hospital examined 99 teens who were hospitalized as a result of concern for suicide risk.  They found that a high perception of lack of acceptance by family often predicts future suicide attempts among boys.  Invalidation and lack of acceptance among family and peers also was a predictor for self harm, such as cutting amng teens in general.

Teens that were admitted to a psychiatric facility were studied because they had tried to kill themselves or were at a high risk of doing so.  They were studied with follow-up for six months. Assessment included the teens’ perceptions of family and peer invalidation, as well as other data measuring demographics and psychiatric history.  Also included in the information that was tracked were recurrences of suicidal behavior or threats by the teens, or such behavior reported by their parents.

With peers, the sense of invalidation may have come from bullying, but often the causes were more subtle. For example a gay teen might feel that there is a strong disapproval from his family, or that parents were disapproving and would be disappointed if they found out, according to  lead study author Shirley Yen, associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Family assessment included such questions as “Were there times when you did not feel accepted by your family? Or that you could not express your true thoughts and feelings? Or that if you did express your thoughts and feelings that you would be dismissed, punished, ignored or made fun of?”  Similiar questions were asked about peers.


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Invalidation of Teens May Lead to Self Harm