Social representations about the functions of deliberate self-harm: Adolescents and parents

J Adolesc. 2019 Jun;73:113-121. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2019.05.001. Epub 2019 May 20.

Abstract

Introduction: The understanding of the social representations about the functions of deliberate self-harm can be an important factor for the comprehension of this phenomenon. Nonetheless, only a few studies focused on this topic and specifically on the social representations from adolescents with and without a history of deliberate self-harm and their parents.

Methods: This article presents two studies that analysed these representations. Study 1 compared the social representations from 411 Portuguese adolescents (219 females and 192 males, aged 12-19 years), from which 109 reported having a history of deliberate self-harm. Study 2 focused on the comparison of the social representations from 471 parents (265 mothers and 206 fathers, aged 33-62 years) of Portuguese adolescents. Of the parents in Study 2, 120 had children with a history of deliberate self-harm.

Results: In Study 1, adolescents without a history of deliberate self-harm perceived most interpersonal functions as more relevant than adolescents with a history of these behaviours, while adolescents with a history of deliberate self-harm emphasized one intrapersonal function. In Study 2, no differences were found between parents of adolescents with and without a history of deliberate self-harm. However, results revealed differences between the representations of mothers and fathers in several intrapersonal functions.

Conclusions: This research provides important insight regarding the social representations about the functions of deliberate self-harm from adolescents with and without a reported history of these behaviours and their parents. The impact for clinical intervention and prevention programs is discussed.

Keywords: Adolescents; Deliberate self-harm; Functions; Parents; Representations.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Portugal
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult