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Deliberate self-harm is one of the fields in research that have received little attention from scholars and academicians in general. This is despite the fact that this behavior is becoming more evident among youths and especially college going students.
There are several factors that have been identified by the few studies that have been conducted in this field as being the major causes of this kind of behavior.
It is against this backdrop that three scholars from the University of Massachusetts at Boston carried out a self-report study that sought to identify and analyze the risk factors behind deliberate self-harm among college students in the United States of America.
This is a review of the article that the three scholars (Gratz, Conrad & Roemer, 2002) wrote to report on the findings of their study. This review will specifically address three aspects of the article and the study that is reported therein. The first will be the construct of the investigation, where the operationalization of the construct will be addressed.
The second will be the methods used in the study, with specific analysis of the research design, the independent and dependent variables. The last will be the results of the study, where an outline of the statistical methods that the three scholars used will be analyzed.
Construct of the Investigation
In a study, a construct can be viewed as the concept that the study revolves around, or the concept that is addressed by the study. The researcher conceptualizes the construct by refining it and rendering it a conceptual and theoretical definition (Atkinson, 2008).
After conceptualization, the researcher then goes ahead and conducts operationalization of the construct. Here, the investigator makes the conceptual definition of the construct more specific by creating a link between it and an indicator (Atkinson, 2008).
In Gratz, Conrad & Roemer (2002), the construct of their study is “deliberate self-harm” among college students. This is the concept that is addressed by this study.
They conceptualize this construct as the “deliberate, direct destruction or alteration of body tissue” (Gratz et al, 2002: p128) where the individual harbors no conscious intent to commit suicide. This action on the part of the individual leads to injuries that may be so severe as to cause tissue damage.
Gratz et al (2002) operationalize their construct by linking it to several indicators that they refer to as the risk factors to deliberate self-harm.
The investigators operationalize deliberate self-harm by making the assertion that it is the kind of outcome that is likely to be brought about by four risk factors in the life of the individual.
These are childhood separation and loss, physical and sexual abuse in childhood, quality of attachment to caregivers and dissociation (Gratz et al, 2002: p130).
Methods used in the Study
Gratz et al (2002) used a self-report design to carry out their study. This is whereby the respondents were given questionnaires to complete on their own.
The questionnaires contained questions designed to make the respondents report on their opinions, views and status regarding several attributes that the researchers were interested in (Atkinson, 2008).
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As far as the research design of the study is concerned, the three scholars used a sample of 133 students drawn from undergraduate psychology courses in the university (Gratz et al, 2002).
The participants were given a questionnaire with several measures to complete. These included the deliberate self-harm inventory measure, the abuse and perpetration inventory, the disruptions in attachment survey, the parental bonding index among others (Gratz et al, 2002).
The study also had both independent and dependent variables. The independent variable in the study is “deliberate self-harm” among the respondents. The independent variable in this case is attribute in nature. This is given the fact that the researchers did not manipulate it during the study (Atkinson, 2008).
The study has four dependent variables or criterion measures. These are the risk factors that the researchers identify as the ones leading to deliberate self-harm. These are childhood physical and sexual abuse, childhood separation and loss, perceived quality of attachment to caregivers and finally, dissociation (Gratz et al, 2002: p130).
Results of the Study
One of the significant findings of this study is the prevalence of self-harm among the respondents. 38 percent of the students reported that they had a history of self-harm (Gratz et al, 2002: p132).
Several statistical methods were used by the three investigators in this study. This included correlational analysis to determine the link between deliberate self-harm frequency and each of the four risk factors that had been identified.
Most of the risk factors that had been identified were found to be significantly correlated with the frequency of deliberate self-harm (Gratz et al, 2002).
The scholars also carried out a multiple regression analysis to determine the unique predictive value of each of the identified risk factors. Other variables within this model were controlled. The risk factors were found to be significantly related to deliberate self-harm among the respondents.
This review focused on the article reporting the findings of a self-report study carried out by three scholars from the University of Massachusetts at Boston. The scholars were interested in the analysis of risk factors for deliberate self-harm among college students in the United States of America, taking the university as their sample group.
The scholars identified four risk factors and designed a study aimed at finding out the relationship between them and deliberate self-harm. These were childhood abuse, dissociation, childhood separation and loss, and attachment to caregivers such as parents.
Atkinson, R. L. (2008). Essentials of social research. 2nd ed. New York: Free Press.
Gratz, K. L., Conrad, S. D., & Roemer, L. (2002). Risk factors for deliberate self-harm among college student. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 72(1), 128-140.