Third International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology
Polskaya N. A.,
Pedagogical Institute of Saratov State University,


The aim of the course “The psychology of self-injurious behaviour” is the advanced study of the psychosocial phenomenon of self-injuries. Self-injurious behaviour is defined as deliberate harming or alteration of one's body tissue without the conscious intent to commit suicide; it is considered in the context of typology, suggested by Favazza A.R. и Rosenthal R.J. (1990).

The lections of the course contain basic characteristics, types, gender, age-specific and socio-cultural factors of self-injurious behaviour. We reveal the connection between self-injures and psychoactive substance use, eating disorders, violence and traumatic childhood experience. Special attention is devoted to studying self-injures in adolescence. The features of self-injurious behaviour during adolescent dysmorphophobia of psychopathological or neurotic genesis are discussed. The influence of culture, fashion, political, religious and aesthetic views on the forming of willingness to self-injure is studied. We analyse the phenomenon of body modifications in particular. Psychological mechanisms of self-injurious behaviour (relief from feelings, coping, dissociation preventing, euphoric feelings, physical expressing of pain and others) and the role family relations, negative life events and communicative skills play in the forming of self-injurious behaviour are analysed. The phenomenon of self-injurious behaviour is considered in psychodynamic, behavioural and cognitive contexts. The methods of assessment of people with self-injurious behaviour are discussed.

The practical part of the course contains theoretical and research tasks. Basing on lections and scientific literature students make analytical reports on the problem of self-injurious behaviour in the context of suicidology, abnormal psychology, clinical psychology, social psychology, and anthropology. The problems of correlation between self-injurious behaviour and anxiety, self-control, autoagression, self-punishment, self-esteem and sensation seeking are discussed. The research task contains making a questionnaire for the revelation of self-injurious behaviour in adolescence and carrying out a training research. The results of questionnaire survey are discussed during seminars. Besides, according to each student’s interests the programs of independent researches of psychological aspects of self-injurious behaviour are made up.

It is significant that the results of researches carried out by students (particularly, on body modifications, coping-strategies and sensation seeking) are used within the bounds of the course. At present a group of students carrying out researches on self-injurious behaviour in different groups (imprisoned or tramping adolescents, girls with eating disorders, members of informal groups) is formed.

Thus, the course “The psychology of self-injurious behaviour” is a project, initiating students’ researching activity and independent scientific pursuit. The course is carried out in the form of the educational laboratory, aiming not only to get systemized information on self-injurious behaviour, but also to help students get their own experience in the field of self-injurious behaviour researches.

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© 2008 Victor Karandashev