Self-injurious behaviour can be defined as the causing of intentional, direct damage to one's body without suicidal intent. Common examples include cutting oneself and burning one's skin. Because such behaviour is associated with suicide and psychiatric disorders and because its treatment can be challenging it has attracted substantial attention in both the clinical and research literature. Little is known about its causes but some people have suggested that childhood sexual abuse is one of them. A number of studies have shown a link between childhood sexual abuse and later self-harm but other studies have found little or no association. Researchers have now got powerful and sophisticated tools which allow them to combine the results from a number of different studies - a process called meta-analysis. A meta-analysis of 45 different studies into the link between childhood sexual abuse and self-harm found that the significance of the relationship was very small and that in studies that take into account other psychiatric risk factors childhood sexual abuse explained little or no unique variance in self-injurious behaviour.
Klonsky, E. David and Moyer, Anne - Childhood sexual abuse and non-suicidal self-injury: meta-analysis British Journal of Psychiatry March 2008, 192(3), 166-170