Young Adults’ Previous Experience of Self-Harm in the Context of School Bullying: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Bermeo Coronel, M. 2021. Young Adults’ Previous Experience of Self-Harm in the Context of School Bullying: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsBermeo Coronel, M.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

This qualitative study explores the lived experience of previous self-harm in the context of school bullying. Based on semi-structured interviews conducted with a purposive sample of seven young adults, the study uses Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to investigate the specific meaning attributed by participants to their own experiences. Four superordinate themes emerge from the data: dealing with rejection; expressing self-hatred; screaming alone and in silence; and taking back the pain.
Participants in this study give meaning to their self-harm in the context of bullying as a way of physically expressing both negative interpersonal and intrapersonal dynamics. Lack of belongingness; perceptions of unsupportiveness and invalidation from others; strong tendencies to withdraw and keep struggles hidden; intense self-hatred and desire to punish the self; and a need to escape and seek distraction, characterise participants’ understandings of their experience.
This study adds support to the affect regulation theory of the relationship between bullying and self-harm; raises awareness that loneliness is a central mediator in this relationship; and strengthens the understanding that unsettling school environments are critical in adolescents’ bullying and self-harming. As the first qualitative study the author has come across on the subject, it reveals participants’ accounts that self-harm, whilst in many ways hurtful, is a way of escaping from the bullying-related pain, and that no theory can, by itself, explain the complex functions of self-harm within this context.
The findings of this study can be useful for future research and can hopefully have beneficial implications for the practice of Counselling Psychology.

KeywordsCounselling psychology; Self-harm ; Bullying
PublisherUniversity of East London
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Publication dates
Online19 Jul 2021
Publication process dates
Submitted18 Feb 2021
Deposited19 Jul 2021
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License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
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