Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Dynamics of Gender, Age, Father Involvement and Adolescents' Self-Harm and Risk-Taking Behaviour in South Africa

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Dynamics of Gender, Age, Father Involvement and Adolescents' Self-Harm and Risk-Taking Behaviour in South Africa

Article excerpt


According to Reddy et al (2010), South Africa is home to 9 million, 747 thousand young people while nearly one third (31.0%) of the country's population is aged younger than 15 years (StatsSA, 2010). Statistics in South Africa also show that among these young ones, there are 667 deaths by suicide every month, 154 per week every day and virtually 1 every hour (Schlebusch, 2011;, 2015). Suicide attempts forms part of risk-taking and self-harm behaviours which have been identified as serious public health problems, common among youths (Booth, Scott & King, 2010) and are becoming alarming with statistics showing that one in five teens thinks about harming themselves, while 7.8% of these youths had previously attempted suicide and 57.7% had told someone of their intentions to end their lives (SADAG, 2015). Adolescent period has been described as turbulent (Idemudia & Makhubela, 2011) and many adolescents at this stage experiment with a range of risky or unsafe behaviours (Mcaloney, McCrystal & Percey, 2010) including self-harm.

Risky and self-harm behaviours (RTSHIA) do jeopardise physical health and at the same time have psychological and social outcomes which interferes with normal developmental tasks and the fulfilment of expected social roles (Lauren et al., 2004). Self-harm behaviour (SHB) have been viewed by various researchers (Ougrin, Tranah, Stahl, Moran, & Asarnow, 2015; Mental Health First Aid Australia, 2014) as a problem common mostly to adolescents. Self-harm behaviour (SHB) otherwise known as self-injure behaviour is defined as the act of harming the surface of oneself deliberately without suicidal intentions (Zetterqvist, Lundth, Dahlstrom, & Svedin, 2013; Latimer, Covic, & Tennant, 2012). Such harm includes but not limited to cutting, scratching or pinching, and burning of oneself. According to Klonsky (2009), self-harm is defined as the process by which an individual directly and intentionally injure their body tissue without conscious suicidal intents.

Many adolescents see self-harm behaviours (SHB) as a means of alleviating intense emotional pain or distress, an avenue of showing others how bad they felt, and a way of displaying an overwhelming negative feelings, thoughts and or memories. Other reasons for self-harm behaviours are wearing clothes that are inappropriate to weather conditions, putting or hiding sharp objects such as razor blades or lighters in unusual places. (Ougrin, Tranah, Stahl, Moran, & Asarnow, 2015; Brausch & Girresch, 2012).

There are conflicting results with regards to gender in risk-taking and self-harm behaviours of adolescents. Laukannen, Rissanen, Honkalampi, Kylma, Tolmunen, and Hintikka's (2009) study on self-harm behaviour among Finnish adolescents found that there are no gender differences in selfharm behaviour. Similarly, research among high school students in Spain indicated that both male and female students exhibited the same level of self-harm behaviours (Kirchner, Ferrer, Forns, and Zanini, 2011). In Belgium, Van Camp, Desmet, and Verhaeghe's (2011) study among high school students found that there were no gender diffferences in self-harm behaviour of adolescents. However, studies (Gratz, 2006; Laye-Gindhu & SchonertReichl, 2005; Ross & Heath, 2002) on selfharm behaviour showed that female engaged in self-harm behaviour than their male counterparts. On the other hand, a study (CARRS-Q, 2010) in Australia among adolescents showed that risk-taking behaviour (RTB) is more common among males, early school leavers as well as youths with less parental supervision, peers who also actively engage in risk-taking behaviour (RTB), have negative attitudes to authority and high alcohol use. The study also showed that adolescent females aged 12-15 years are considered to be risky and high drinkers than males.

Research studies on the appropriate age of adolescents in engaging in self-harm behaviour have provided mixed results. …

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