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Title: Self-harm and psychosocial risk characteristics : a study of three student cohorts within West Central Scotland
Author: Harkess-Murphy, Eileen
ISNI:       0000 0004 2711 3355
Awarding Body: University of the West of Scotland
Current Institution: University of the West of Scotland
Date of Award: 2011
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Self-harm, a precursor to suicide, is argued by some to be at epidemic levels within the UK, with alarmingly high prevalence rates, particularly among adolescents. Identified by the Scottish Government (2009) as a National Health priority, there is an urgent need to gain a better understanding of this phenomenon within Scottish populations. This thesis aims to contribute to the body of knowledge in Scotland, by assessing the prevalence of self-harm, whilst making the distinction between non-suicidal and suicidal types, across a wider geographical area than previous research has sampled, surveying participants from early adolescence to adulthood. With an underpinning cognitive behavioural approach, this study investigated both thoughts of self-harm and behaviours and compared those who self-harmed with those who have never selfharmed. Age and gender variations were investigated in addition to various psychological, social and environmental influences, including suicide risk, self-critical style, problem type and difficulty, ‘looked after’ status, contagion and academic self-esteem. This research adopted a cross-sectional approach, surveying three cohorts of students enrolled within full-time education within West Central Scotland. Study 1 sampled 773 adolescent school students aged 11 to 17 years attending mainstream secondary education. Study 2 sampled 140 college students aged 16 to 53 years of age and study 3 sampled 568 university students aged 17 to 58 years of age. Participants completed a self-report questionnaire that collected data on self-harm rates and reasons, suicide / self-harm risk and self-critical style. The analysis of self-harm rates revealed 26% of school students, 60% of college students and 56% of university students had engaged in some form of self-harm. Non-suicidal self-harm was the most common type of self-harm among school students, whilst for the college and university students, engagement in both non-suicidal and suicidal self-harm types was reported most often. In general, adolescent females were found to be more likely to self-harm than males and at greater risk of suicide, however such gender distinctions were not evident among the adult samples. Whilst males were found to engage in less self-harm than females, the difference in rates of self-harm between males and females was less than previous research has reported, therefore this may indicate that the prevalence of male self-harm is underestimated. Adolescents were found to be vulnerable to the effects of contagion; with suicide risk further exacerbated among those who engaged in self-harm themselves. A strong commonality between non-suicidal and suicidal self-harm types was revealed, indicating that those who self-harm without suicidalintent may be at similar risk of suicide to those who self-harm with suicidal intent. Logistic regression analyses were used to determine the relative influence of variables in predicting selfharm. The hated form of self-criticism was found to be a key predictor of self-harm across all three student cohorts. The perceived difficulty of problems was found to be a significant predictor of suicidal self-harm within the adolescent sample and a key predictor of non-suicidal and suicidal self-harm types within the university sample. Suicide related concerns and academic self-esteem were significant predictors of all self-harm types (non-suicidal and suicidal) within the adolescent sample, whilst social influences represented by peer and family relations were significant variables in the majority of self-harm models within the university cohort. This thesis has directly contributed to the understanding of self-harm and in distinguishing between different types, thoughts and behaviours, it has drawn out some key psychosocial elements that underlie self-harm at each stage in its progression, knowledge that benefits the wider research community in this field.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available