A research paper about non-suicidal self-injury, with BCTR research scientist Janis Whitlock as lead author, has been cited by more than 1,000 other research papers – a rare occurrence that indicates the broad impact of Whitlock’s work.
The paper, Self-injurious Behaviors in a College Population, was published in the journal Pediatrics in 2006 (DOI:10.1542/peds.2005-2543). It takes a careful look at the prevalence of intentional injury – not as an attempted suicide, but as a cry for help or an emotional release – among college students in the U.S. Whitlock and her co-authors, including Human Development Emeritus Professor John Eckenrode, found that approximately 17 percent of college students had injured themselves at some point.
Less than 1 percent of all research papers are cited more than 1,000 times, according a study in the journal Nature.
The milestone demonstrates Whitlock’s broad impact in the field of social science, BCTR Director Chris Wildeman explained.
“There are two things that are astonishing about Janis’ work,” he said. “The first, and the one that is immediately obvious to anyone who reads her work, or even just the titles of her work, is that she is doing research that truly makes the world a better place by focusing on a marginalized group. Her work on self-harm is truly the best of what we do here at Cornell.
“The second, and the one that is especially noteworthy on this day that her most well-cited study crosses the 1,000 cite threshold, is just how much of an impact this work has made on the field,” he said. “Very few social scientists across campus have an article that has been cited anywhere near 1,000 times – I know I certainly don’t!”
In addition to quantifying self-injurious behavior, the paper looks at which youth are most likely to self-injure. Whitlock found that women, people who are bisexual and those who are questioning their sexual orientation are more likely to self-injure than other groups. In addition, those who self-injured were more likely to report a history of emotional or sexual abuse, or psychological distress.