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Title: Experiences of self-injury in lesbian and bisexual women
Author: Alexander, Natasha
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2001
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The term 'self-injury' refers to a specific type of self-harm that involves deliberately inflicting pain or injury to one's own body; i.e. it is intentional, done to oneself, by oneself, and without suicidal intent (Babiker and Arnold, 1997). Drawing on evidence indicating a relatively high prevalence of suicide attempts and self-destructive behaviours such as alcohol abuse among lesbians, bisexuals and gay men, and a relative lack of research focusing on self-injury in this context, the current study aimed to utilise the perceptions of lesbian and bisexual women who had self-injured to explore the functions served by self-injury in this context, and the relationship between self-injury and sexual identity. Method Sixteen women who identified as lesbian or bisexual and who had deliberately self-injured on more than one occasion, were interviewed using a semi-structured interview format, for between an hour and an hour and a half about their perceptions of their experiences of self-injury. Participants were asked about the context in which they had started self-injuring, how their self-injury had developed since this time, and the types of situations that triggered their self-injury. They also spoke about their lives as lesbian or bisexual women, the process by which they had come to identify in this way, and their thoughts about the role that self-injury played in this context. The interview transcripts were analysed using a qualitative method: Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Findings The analysis resulted in the generation of twenty-eight themes which fell into six higher-order categories relating to the process of self-injury in the context of having a lesbian or bisexual identity. Conclusions The study concluded that for the participants, the process of acknowledging their sexual orientation to themselves and others was an added extra source of anxiety or worry on top of existing stressful or distressing experiences. Although self-injury may originate in earlier experiences, the process of identifying as lesbian or bisexual within a heterosexist and homophobic society can be yet another source of stress that contributes to self-injurious behaviour.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available