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Effects of Childhood Experiences on Self-Destructive Behavior Report

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Updated: Jun 25th, 2019

Just like an adult, a child undergoes some experiences that later determines the kind of behavior they attain. It is worth noting that for a child to be able to live and co-exist with other people in his /her adult life then the experiences the child goes through will determine if the child is able to successfully live normally or have difficulties struggling to always survive in this world.

Childhood experiences are vast and are different in terms of the age bracket, gender, lifestyle and so many other reasons. It should be noted that this experiences could mean self destruction to one self or simply the opposite, self constructive. The thing with self destruction is that, for a child to reach this point, it may be may be because the amount of stress the child is handling is quite too much to handle.

The experiences especially the negative ones are core reasons a child would result to self destructive behavior like suicidal attempts which are associated with aggressive behavior, depression, anxiety, substance abuse especially among the young people.

Self destructive behavior can also be termed as deliberate self harm (DSH). This term has been used to describe various acts that cause or inflict pain to the human body to an extent of even causing some kind of body deformation and in extreme cases this actions may lead to death. The most ever outcome of these actions is compete lose of life.

DHS is commonly known to cause future suicidal attempts, what dominates this kind of behavior includes being social-economical disadvantaged, gender researchers found out the female gender are the most affected, having psychiatric disorders, adverse childhood, sexual and physical abuse with an inclusion of other family circumstances like living in a broken family. according to (Zlotnick et al., 1996; Zoroglu et al., 2003)

The report tries to compare the association between a child’s past experience and the effect it imposes on the child in terms of the child going to the extent of being involved with the self destructive kind of behavior. The reports analysis both the individual factors and the environmental factors that are said to be risk factors contributing to the mentioned behavior.

According to several researchers who have researched upon this issue, childhood experiences associated with child abuse have mostly been known to cause an individual to result to self destructive behavior. The particular individual is said to particularly perform self harm during the adult stage. Evidence show that there is indeed a relationship between childhood sexual abuse and inflicting of self harm during adulthood.

Beautrais, Joyce, Mulder (1996) argue that this kind of abuse may be in form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. The studies point out sexual abuse like rape as one of the most common reason given by individuals who result to self-harm. Most of them result to inflicting pain to themselves as a way of expressing their anger and inner feelings.

Another childhood experience that is likely to cause self -harm is when a child is living in a broken family (Gould, Greenberg, Velting & Shafffer 2003).

Studies show that an independent child of about 12 years of age living in a broken family that is caused by divorce, has a higher chance of experiencing deliberate self-harm the studies have showed that divorce and suicidal behavior experienced during adolescence, is experienced due to the increased rate of parents who end their marriages through divorce.

The child due mental distress may find it hard to accept the fact that their parents would no longer live together as a family. They don’t see how the family they are so used to can just break apart. This unsatisfactory wellbeing of a child predicts acts of deliberate self destruction at around the age of 15 as stated during the analysis.

Apart from these children who experience their parents’ divorce, there those who live in step or blended family (foster homes) which are usually arranged families. When these children are compared with children brought up in an original home in the presence of both parents, those in foster homes are at a higher risk of being hospitalized for DSH in their later life.

Children who are born to teenage mothers are also at a great risk of showing destructive self-behavior later on in life.reasons for becoming a mother at a tender age of between 12-17 years is as a result of a number of reasons that may include that the child hails from unstable homes, being social-economical disadvantaged, stress ignorance among many other factors. This kind of circumstances that lead to stressful pregnancies may be inflicted to the unborn child leading to the child experiencing future mental health problems.

Children about the age of 12 who have difficulties at school and often experience bullying are known to have ideations of deliberate self harm by the time they reach the age of 15. These difficulties at school may result to the child’s poor school performance as the child is not able to achieve as required even on average terms.

This kind of poor achievement may then lead to increased ideations of deliberate self-harm that may be associated with the child having poor or low self-esteem about one self. Studies conducted by Gratz, Conrad and Roemer (2002)on the issue of poor competence and being bullied by the age of 12, show that prediction of inflicting of self harm would take place by the time they reach 15 years.

The attention given to individuals who are at a risk of developing deliberate self-harm is very limited, but evidence show that the different ways in which different individual with different characteristics of how to respond to emotional constraints may play a big role in the development of self-harm.an example is not being able to express ones emotional feelings.

It is good to know that the research done concerning this subject is not enough to point out that emotional inexpressively as an important role in the development self-harm, there is evidence to suggest that it may be associated with self harm (Zlotnick et al, 1996.)

For example, has found out during research, self-harm is associated with a disorder known as alexithymia which is the inability to express feelings verbally also Virkkunen in 1976 found out after comparing prisoners who have a history of self-harm and the prisoners who don t have such a history and concluded that these prisoners who had have a history of self harming were unable or unwilling to express their thoughts and feelings and other internal experiences verbally.

He also suggested that the individuals who tend to inflict harm upon them if they get to know how or learn ways in which they can express their feelings verbally then their self harm behavior would surely decrease.

It is has also been noted that cases involving deliberate self-harm increase significantly from age 12 to 15 especially among the girls as compared to the boys.

An indication was also seen that majority of the parents are never aware of their children’s deliberate self-harm acts past studies have also shown that female gender show more suicidal behavior giving further explanation that these girls involve themselves in suicidal behavior due to increased rate of depression (Gould et al, 1998).

More information about the relationship between expression of emotional feelings and self harm can be found from the literature on the functions of self harm which is clinical in nature. This literature suggests that one of function of self harm is to be able to release express or communicate individuals’ feelings.


Studies show that self harm among the adolescence is often because of several factors and events which a child is not able to comprehend well this is according to Van der Kolk, Perry, & Herman (1991). Deliberate self-harm by individual’s acts as a wakeup call to these particular people and their parents with warning signs of future acts and ideation during a time when the child hits the mid-adolescence mark.

When a child’s lives in broken home especially if the child grew up knowing and feeling the security of both parent then suddenly there is the split that is brought about by divorce then the child is greatly affected and this may predict acts of self-harm in future

At school children who experience peer pressure from friends and other school activities may also predict some form of self harm in future. (Beautrais et al.,1996) states that there has been evidence of association between a child who attempts suicide and having difficulties in school The issue of sexual abuse is by far the most predictor of deliberate self-harm. Victims of this kind of violence live very dramatic.

In a way these individuals turn to self harm in an attempt to express or communicate the internal pain they are feeling. Most of these people try to reenact the abuse inflicted on them by taking the role of the perpetrator of the injustices done to them.

Sexual abuse is an experience commonly associated with very strong negative feelings about one’s self there are those who live each day blaming themselves for not being their own protectors, while other live in denial over the violence inflicted on them these individuals then start feeling deep desires to experience pain or disfigure parts of their body I a way of expressing themselves because that is the only way they know how.

Findings show that the self-reported acts of depression among children of 8 years, have a high chance of showing predictive signs of engaging in suicidal status by the time they reach the age of 18.it is important to identify strange behaviors in children that will lead to the predictions of self-harm to try and control it before it’s too late.

A warrant has been issued so that researchers can in future conduct research on subject pertaining identification of individuals at a risk of acquiring suicidal behavior in elementary schools and other school healthcare settings.


As researchers try to come up with reasons as to why a child’s behavior becomes one that involves self-harm, they should do this carefully. They can consider a sample that include individuals who turn to substance abuse and those regarded as mentally unstable because as found out it is not necessarily that these individuals would really result to destructive self-harm


Beautrais, A. L., Joyce, P. R., Mulder, R.T. (1996). Risk factors and life events in serious suicide attempts among youths aged 13 through 24 years. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psych. 35, 1174–1182. Deliberate self-harm among college students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 72, 128–140.

Gould, M. S., Greenberg, T., Velting, D. M. & Shafffer, D. (2003). Youth suicide risk and preventive interventions a review of the past 10 years J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psych. 42, 386–405.

Gratz, K. L., Conrad, S. D., & Roemer, L. (2002). Risk factors for deliberate self- Harm among college students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 72, 128–140.

Van der Kolk, B. A., Perry, J. C. & Herman, J. L. (1991). Childhood origins of self destructive behavior. American Journal of Psychiatry, 148.

Zlotnick, C., Mattia, J. I. & Zimmerman, M. (1999). Clinical correlates of self-mutilation in a sample of general psychiatric patients. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 187, 296–301.1665–1671

Zoroglu, S. S. et al. (2003). Suicide attempt and self-mutilation among Turkish high school students in relation with abuse, neglect and dissociation. Psychiatryand Clinical Neurosciences, 57, 119–126.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Effects of Childhood Experiences on Self-Destructive Behavior." June 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/effects-of-childhood-experiences-on-self-destructive-behavior/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Effects of Childhood Experiences on Self-Destructive Behavior'. 25 June.

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