'The inner scar.' Women's experience of self-harm

Sambath, A. (2016). 'The inner scar.' Women's experience of self-harm. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)

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Abstract

South Asian women in the United Kingdom have shown higher rates of self-harm compared to their white counterparts and Asian men. However, only a few studies have attempted to use in-depth exploration on an individual level to understand the reasons behind this. The empirical study aimed to explore the subjective experience and meaning of self-harm from South Asian women’s perspectives. It sought to appraise how they understood and made sense of their experience and the factors contributing to their self-harm using a qualitative phenomenological methodology. Five South Asian women, representing a non-clinical sample, were interviewed and their accounts were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA: Smith, 2008). Four master themes, highlighting the women’s experiences of self-harm, their understanding of the contributory factors, and their opinion of support services, emerged. In line with previous research, the study found self-harm to be a method of emotional regulation and a logical response to the distress these women faced in their lives. However, new meanings and understandings specific to South Asian women were also discovered. For instance, self-harm was perceived by these women as a friend; in other words, as a means of compensating for the loss of a visible companion in their lives. Self-harm’s covert style was acknowledged as a significant means of surviving within the context of South Asian culture. Most pertinent and embedded in the study’s findings was the concept of Family honour, otherwise understood as the South Asian cultural code of conduct and law of ‘Izzat’. The concept was recognised as a subtle yet pertinent and underlying influence behind why the women chose to self-harm. These findings have not been produced by previous research, bringing forth novelty to the field. Furthermore, self-harm was experienced as a double-edged sword; this was considered to maintain and perhaps explain the increased rate of suicide following self-harm in this population. Participants’ experiences and opinions of support services were also taken into account. Their suggestions and experience helped the study inform clinical practitioners working with South Asian women to approach interventions differently. Limitations to the study and recommendations for future research have also been outlined.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: School of Social Sciences > Department of Psychology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/16040

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