Adolescent and staff experience of self-cutting behaviour in residential settings: a qualitative study

Norris, Vivien (1997). Adolescent and staff experience of self-cutting behaviour in residential settings: a qualitative study. PhD thesis The Open University.



This qualitative study explored the subjective experiences of young people and staff around self-cutting behaviour in residential settings. Ten young people and twelve staff members from three settings were interviewed. Three main areas were explored: 1) explanatory frameworks used to make sense of cutting; 2) the impact of cutting on others; 3) staff responses to cutting and how these were experienced by young people. An interpretative phenomenological approach was used to analyse the data.

A wide range of accounts was articulated and there was a high level of consistency in the data. Intrapersonal explanations for cutting predominated, but the cutting had a powerful and generally negative effect on others. The role of carer was identified as central and parallel processes occurred for young people and staff when they were in the carer role. The findings were discussed and developed into a model which attempted to bring together the intrapersonal and interpersonal cycles that appeared to be operating. Wider social issues were also considered.

It appeared that the phenomenon of self-cutting occurred in the context of overwheh-ning experiences which were unbearable for all concerned. There was significant difficulty in integrating the confusing and conflicting experiences associated with cutting and this led to polarised and rigid views. It was concluded that a multi-dimensional approach which includes intrapersonal, interpersonal and group processes as well as wider social issues is needed to increase understanding of this challenging area. The findings were related to the literature and research and clinical implications suggested.

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