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The functions of self -injury and its link to traumatic events in college students

Laurel Ann Alexander, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Abstract

The phenomenology of self-injury in a non-clinical undergraduate population was investigated in two studies. In Study 1, 244 undergraduate men and women completed measures of demographic information, trauma history, posttraumatic symptomatology, and history of self-injury. High rates of overt and indirect self-injury were found in this non-clinical sample. The variety of self-injurious behaviors increased as severity of trauma history and posttraumatic symptomatology increased. Reasons typically identified by clinical populations for engaging in self-injury were also seen in this sample across a wide range of self-injurious behaviors. ^ Study 2 was a replication and extension of Study 1. In Study 2, 214 undergraduate men and women completed measures of demographic information, trauma history, and posttraumatic symptomatology as well as a revised version of the self-injury questionnaire. High rates of indirect and overt self-injurious behaviors were again found in a non-clinical sample. For indirect self-injury, trauma history and posttraumatic symptomatology interacted to predict variety and frequency of indirect self-injury. That is, for participants experiencing relatively low levels of posttraumatic symptomatology, variety and frequency of indirect self-injury were positively associated with more severe trauma history; however, for participants experiencing higher levels of posttraumatic symptomatology, there were no systematic relations between variety and frequency of indirect self-injury and trauma history. In contrast, for overt self-injury, more severe trauma history and posttraumatic symptomatology positively predicted variety and frequency of overt self-injury without an interaction effect. Reasons typically identified by clinical populations for engaging in self-injury were associated with both indirect and overt self-injurious behaviors. ^ The findings from these two studies serve as a starting point for further exploration of the phenomenology of self-injury and its link to traumatic events in non-clinical populations. Given that indirect self-injury appears to serve more serious functions in non-clinical populations than previously thought, a better understanding of its functions and psychological sequelae will enable mental health professionals to approach these issues more effectively. If overt self-injury is, in fact, reaching epidemic proportions in non-clinical populations as has been suggested, then more information is needed to understand how best to conceptualize and address self-injury in the general population. ^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Mental Health|Psychology, Behavioral|Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Laurel Ann Alexander, "The functions of self -injury and its link to traumatic events in college students" (January 1, 1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. Paper AAI9932285.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI9932285

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