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

Sarah E. Victor, Sarah L. Brown, Lori N. Scott

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1 Scopus citations


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. Here we present EMA data from a large, diverse sample of young adult women with high rates of SITB to examine NA and PA dynamics (mean intensity, variability, and inertia). Specifically, we considered the prospective associations between past-year suicidal thoughts and past-year nonsuicidal self-injury and affective dynamics, as well as the concurrent associations between affective dynamics, EMA-reported suicidal thoughts, and EMA-reported urges for nonsuicidal self-injury. Results demonstrate that elevated mean NA and NA variability are robustly associated with all types of SITB assessed prospectively or concurrently. Interestingly, these associations were weakest for past-year nonsuicidal self-injurious behaviors, relative to past-year and concurrent suicidal or nonsuicidal self-injurious thoughts. Past-year suicidal thoughts further predicted increased NA inertia. Decreased PA inertia was associated with past-year nonsuicidal self-injury behavior, as well as concurrent EMA suicidal thoughts. We found no associations (prospective or concurrent) 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 nonsuicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior in daily life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1158-1170
Number of pages13
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • NSSI
  • affective dynamics
  • ecological momentary assessment
  • self-injurious thoughts and behaviors
  • suicide


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