Date of Award

Summer 8-21-2020

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Emily A.P. Haigh

Second Committee Member

Cynthia Erdley

Third Committee Member

Shannon McCoy

Additional Committee Members

Douglas Nangle

Rebecca Schwartz-Mette


Research suggests that non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) precedes and increases risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, but the reasons for this are not understood (Hamza et al., 2012). The trajectory from NSSI to suicidal thoughts and behaviors likely reflects a complex interaction of emotional, cognitive, and physiological factors. Indeed, research indicates that the way individuals react to emotional experiences (i.e., emotion reactivity) and approach problem solving confers risk for NSSI and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The current study proposed an integrated model to test whether emotion reactivity (self-report and electrodermal activity) mediates the relationship between NSSI history and suicidal ideation (SI), and whether a maladaptive approach to problem solving (i.e., negative problem orientation) moderates this relationship. One hundred six adults and college students completed the Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors Interview (SITBI; Nock et al., 2007), and self-report questionnaires including the Emotion Reactivity Scale (ERS; Nock et al., 2008), the Social Problem Solving Inventory-Revised (SPSI-R; D’Zurilla et al., 2002), and the Beck Scale for Suicidal Ideation (BSS; Beck & Steer, 1991). Participants then completed a baseline task (neutral video), participated in a social stress task (i.e., Cyberball; Williams & Jarvis, 2006), completed a recovery task (neutral video) and participated in a positive mood induction. Electrodermal activity was recorded throughout the paradigm. Participants were emailed 6-8 weeks after Session 1 to complete the BSS again. Results showed that individuals in the NSSI/high SI group endorsed greater emotion reactivity than individuals in the NSSI/low SI group, but did not differ in negative problem orientation. Individuals with an NSSI history endorsed greater emotion reactivity and negative problem orientation than individuals without an NSSI history, but did not differ in electrodermal reactivity. The proposed moderated mediation model was not significant.

Overall, results suggest that self-reported emotion reactivity, but not physiological reactivity, contributes to SI among individuals with an NSSI history. Negative problem orientation may increase vulnerability for SI uniquely among individuals without an NSSI history. Future research should examine whether a more potent stress task would reveal group differences in skin conductance reactivity. Finally, replication using a larger sample size is needed.