Author Machoian, Lisa
Title The possibility of love: A psychological study of adolescent girls' suicidal acts and self-mutilation
book jacket
Descript 244 p
Note Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 59-04, Section: B, page: 1886
Adviser: Carol Gilligan
Thesis (Ed.D.)--Harvard University, 1998
This research explores adolescent girls' suicidal acts and self-mutilation through psychological case studies. These behaviors tend to begin in early adolescence; girls' suicidal acts peak at ages 13 and 14 (Velez & Cohen, 1988). This thesis addresses the question, why at this age?
The literature on girls' and women's psychological development theoretically guides this inquiry (Brown & Gilligan, 1992). Past research reports that suicidal adolescent girls often have histories of trauma, and experience family violence, discord, and disruption (Spirito, Brown, Overholser, & Fritz, 1989). Given this history, why do girls' suicidal acts begin at adolescence and peak at ages 13 and 14?
To discover what girls know about why they inflict harm upon themselves, I interviewed four white girls, ages 13 through 17. I used intensive clinical interviews because the information I was seeking required the establishment of a trusting relationship and an in-depth psychological approach. I used the voice-centered relational method for data analysis, the "Listener's Guide," to interpret the narratives because it is sensitive to the layering and multi-voiced nature of psychological processes (Brown, et al., 1988)
Findings indicate that the increase and peak in girls' suicidal acts, and the onset of cutting, in early adolescence signify a desperate, complex, developmental peaking of hope for love and relationship. Girls' suicidal acts and cutting constituted strategic relational moves, a way of testing the hope that somebody does care. A major discovery was the girls' observation and straightforward description of the fact that people who did not listen to their words, did listen and take them seriously when they hurt themselves. The girls clearly articulated their astute awareness that violence is an effective "language" in that people notice and respond to violent acts. As girls discovered the efficacy of speaking through violence, they were called "manipulative." In effect, they had learned how to "manipulate" in that they succeeded in gaining a response from those who had ignored their more direct expressions of hurt. If this was the intention of their suicidal act, they "succeeded" rather than failed--at least initially. Implications for clinical care, education, and future research are discussed
School code: 0084
Host Item Dissertation Abstracts International 59-04B
Subject Psychology, Behavioral
Psychology, Developmental
Alt Author Harvard University