This cross-sectional study aimed to generate an exploratory functional model of deliberate self-harm (DSH) occurring among a South African student population (n = 603) using Principle Component Analysis (PCA). A battery of instruments, including the Deliberate Self-Harm Inventory (DSHI) and the Functional Assessment of Self-Mutilation (FASM) were administered to students. Following Nock and Prinstein’s (2004) four-factor model on the functions of DSH, self-reported reasons for DSH on the FASM were conceptualised in light of the reinforcement mechanisms of social learning theory. PCA revealed a four-factor model for the reasons students engaged in DSH, constituent of the following components: social positive reinforcement, social negative reinforcement, automatic reinforcement, and reinforcement regarding self-image. A unique factor manifests in the self-image reinforcement component, suggesting divergence in the functions of DSH between student and adolescent populations.