Characteristics and predictors of self-mutilation: A study of incarcerated women

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33 Scopus citations


Background: Research on self-mutilating behaviour and incarcerated adults has found that nearly 50% of people in prison participated in it (Holley and Alborleda-Florez, 1988). This is an enormous liability for the criminal justice system as well as a human concern. Aims/hypotheses: The research question for this study was to explore whether a history of childhood abuse in a sample of incarcerated women would increase their likelihood of self-mutilation. Methods: Participants were 256 female inmates from five prisons in a large southern state who volunteered to attend a 12-week trauma and abuse psychosocial intervention group. The participants were evaluated for childhood abuse, criminal history, risk-taking behaviour and self-mutilation. Data are presented regarding individual, criminal, abuse, family and risk-taking behaviours comparing self-mutilators (n = 109) with non-self-mutilators (n = 147). Results: The self-mutilation group was more likely to report higher rates of emotional, sexual and physical abuse and on clinical significance scales of anxiety, depression, dissociation, impaired self-reference, anger, tension reduction and intrusive experiences. The self-mutation group was also younger and was more often Caucasian. The results of the regression model suggest that a history of suicide attempts, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, bingeing and vomiting and impaired self-reference are predictors of self-mutilation. Conclusions/ implications for practice: Recommendations and implications for practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-321
Number of pages10
JournalCriminal Behaviour and Mental Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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