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Self-Harm in Adolescence

Iva Buresová

The author discusses the subject of self-harm in adolescence, considering the historical context of the development of its classification system. She presents an overview of theoretical fundamentals as well as models of behavior derived from them. Within the context of current research studies, she describes its prevalence, etiology, and comorbidity. The author specifies the basic protective and risk factors as well as all important influences. She presents the diagnostic tools currently used in research and clinical practice including the description of key approaches to prevention, therapy and treatment. This book includes the results of a unique research study mapping the lexical trace of the term self-harm in adolescents and the differences in perception of this term among those without own practice, with mediation and with personal, often repeated experience.
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2 The Specifics of Self-Harm in Adolescence


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2   The Specifics of Self-Harm in Adolescence

The occurrence of self-harm is not strictly connected to adolescence – it occurs in childhood as well as in adulthood; however, in adolescence its occurrence grows significantly (Tick et al., 2008). The first episode of self-harm before the beginning of adolescence is usually very rare, but it can occur basically at any age (Lawrence et al., 2000)13. Currently, in non-clinical population of adolescents, this behaviour evidently occurs to a very similar degree as other forms of risk behaviour, which are closely related to this stage of development and, to a certain extent, are a part of it. Up to a point, these forms represent a natural part of development, in which an individual goes through the passage from childhood to adulthood14. A number of authors, who examine self-harm from a long-term perspective, perceive it as an extreme form of a rite of passage. For example, Conterio, Lader & Bloom (1998) in this context claim that the self-inflicted wounds can serve as a physical proof of the process of transformation, while other authors ascribe the development of risk behaviour in the given developmental stage rather to the inability to adequately regulate strong emotions (Walsh & Rosen, 1988) and the effort to adapt to stressful situations (Chowanec et al., 1991)15.

Similarly to other risk and pathological forms of behaviour, self-harm is not only connected to a certain specific biological mechanism – it is a very complex phenomenon...

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