Social Connectedness and Self-harm

by hhuey1 on November 11, 2013 - 9:09pm

                Social connectedness has been an important element in the evaluation and prevention of self-directed violence in adolescence. Connectedness is defined by the quality of relationships, and the feelings and attitudes toward relationships and environments (Kaminski et al., 2010, p.461). Past research has focused on how connectedness of four different domains: family, peers, school, and adults at school have influenced the likelihood of self-harm. Kaminski et al. (2010) enhances the previous research and addresses the importance of each domain in a relative manner. The aim is to find if connectedness with one domain has a more significant affect than the others. 4,131 middle and high school students from a high-risk community (with the nation’s highest rates of poverty, unemployment, single-parent homes and serious crimes) were surveyed (Kaminski et al., 2010, p.462). The survey consisted of three subfields. The first included questions about self-directed violence with scales of non-suicidal harm, suicidal ideation and planning, and non-fatal suicide behavior (suicide attempts). The second subfield included questions about the four domains: family, peers, school, and adults in school, and the level of connectedness they felt with each. Lastly, participants were asked about demographic characteristics like family structure, academic grades, depressive symptoms, gender and race to account for any outside influence. Some significant conclusions include that the family domain is more influential at decreasing risks than the other domains, and peer connectedness was surprisingly linked to increasing risks of self-directed violence.

                The relativism perspective has shed new light on the ongoing discussion of self-harm, and may have a bigger benefit in real-life application than the findings of previous research. The previous literature was flawed because it addressed the four domains as grouped together as one, but never as an interconnected system of individuals. This is especially evident when looking at past research that supported peer relationships as decreasing the likelihood of self-harm. The new study shows that without the involvement of family, school, and adults in school, peer connectedness is actually linked to increasing self-harm behaviors. According to the current study, girls tend to feel more connected to peers than boys, yet they report higher likelihood of self-harm (Kaminski et al., 2010, p. 468). The purpose of all research on this topic is to add to the discussion of prevention. This study holds information that could dramatically improve suicide and self-harm prevention programs. Kaminski et al. (2010) points to a method of prevention that focuses on strengthening or enhancing relationships purely at school (p. 470). This method may have some benefits, and was likely implemented because the previous research suggested it to be effective, but these programs may not hold up to what they intend to accomplish. The school domain does not have the same influence as family does. Tailoring prevention programs more toward family involvement and improved connectedness may be more beneficial than focusing just on school connectedness.


Kaminski, J. W., Puddy, R. W., Hall, D. M., Cashman, S. Y., Crosby, A. E., & Ortega, L. G. (2010). The relative influence of different domains of social connectedness on self-directed violence in adolescence. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 39(5), 460-473.


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