At the middle childhood stage, there is a tendency of children to deliberately cause bodily harm to themselves with no intention of ending their lives. (Hawton et al, .2012) reported shocking findings from the Multicentre study of self-harm based in England that with 7,150 cases of self-harm involving 5,205 individuals aged between 10 and 14 years! The figures imply that among the individuals were multiple self-harm casualties. The study also revealed that girls were more exposed rating at approximately 30% and boys had risk exposure of 6.7%.
Causes and Methods of self-harm in Adolescence
The predisposing factors vary from one case to another, geographical location to another, social backgrounds, etc. Hawton and the research team found that relationship related problems were the major causes of self-harm. Considering children at this age bracket are at a very critical stage of human growth and development where they are discovering and identifying themselves, they seek attention from parents and among the peers around them. Failure to attract full attention and support results to psychological disturbance (Hawton et al, .2012)
When the psychological state builds up, they start imagining of evil deeds, those with delicate emotional balance seek to find out avenues of handling the problems. Quite a number are successful in handling the issues at hand, but there are substantial a number who are unable to contain the situation resulting in unhealthy measures to curb the situation. The report of Hawton indicated excessive use of paracetamol as the common kind of self-harm that the hospitalized victims were exposed to.
Lack of necessities of life exposes children to self-harm risks. Failure of parents and guardians to provide food, clothing, education, medical care and shelter among other necessities makes children devalue themselves. When a child sees agemate being well catered for while himself/herself has missed out on the basic needs, they are psychologically tortured to the extent of inflicting pain on themselves through various means. For example, when the child has no access to food, he/she may start biting himself or herself, they can eat poisonous substances and herbs. This causes a devastating effect on the child.
Child abuse and misuse significantly contribute to childs self-harm. When children are left under the care of parents who physically abuse them by employing corporal punishments or overworking them in the house and farm chores among other crude means invite, self-harm to the children. A child who is constantly punished in school like attending to school garden and compound while their colleagues are in class learning, such child ends up lagging behind in syllabus and class activities. His/her performance will significantly decline, and the child is likely to be more stressed to the extent of causing bodily harm to himself/herself. Such child is likely to be tempted to take poisonous substances or engage in drug and substance abuse (Fisher et al, .2012)
Failed family setups and constant family discords psychologically disturb children. Such frictions may take the form of parents fighting, parents contesting for family resources and property, projects to initiate and those to shelf for future consideration, parenting, and parenthood. When these circumstances get to the knowledge of the children, they develop undesirable behavioral traits that drive them to commit diverse self-injurious harms. When this condition is not resolved, children will keep themselves at a distance from the parents and the society and thus engage in drug and substance abuse leading to a drug overdose to keep mind away from family conflicts. The result is the child losing a sense of direction and life consciousness. Eventuality the caused harm may lead to the child committing unlawful acts. The circle may lead to endless efforts of rehabilitation and hospitalization. Children who commit criminal offenses may find themselves in juvenile delinquency (Rathus, 2013).
Low self-esteem, lack of personal ambitions and hopelessness among children can make them engage in self-injurious activities. When children at this age bracket are not adequately guided in matters of career choices, taught basic life skills and encouraged to lead life positively in being optimistic of better things in future they lose focus and topple off from the future path. Such children may end up pursuing things they would not be interested in or things that may never add value to their lives. When these children find themselves in such circumstances, where the future is hanging in the balance, they result in self-harming practices. When the emotions and tensions of such children are triggered, such children reported having chopped off some of their body parts, jumping from some high grounds and engaging in shootout activities.
Some school experiences such as registering low grades in continuous assessment tests or being intimidated by peers are also predisposing factors to self-harm. Other experiences such as biological disorders like bedwetting, snoring, night walking and dream talking affect children psychologically. Also, the inability of children to fluently express themselves or complete assignments can make such children result in acts that harm them like piercing skin using sharp objects such as razor blades or nails leaving scars. Such scars can expose them to bacterial infections. Others remain in solitude and are even found to have tired themselves to their beds while sleeping to remain immobile throughout the night. Likewise, such children can engage in drug abuse or drug overdose so that they can get an opportunity to get out of school. When they are absent from school, they are more likely to feel comfortable away from the humiliating environment.
Signs and Symptoms of Self-Harming Children
Children who are likely to cause harm to themselves portray observable behavioral traits. They often feel sad and unhappy for no good reason. They are emotionally unstable. They cannot take instructions and coordinate activities accurately. From their daily encounters, it is evident that they are suffering from deep inner feelings. While every child in the adolescence age bracket experiences stress, children with the likelihood of causing harm to themselves are more characterized by withdrawal and frustration symptoms (Rossouw & Fonagy, 2012). Also, children who lack mentors or role models are likely to dispose of behavioral traits reflecting possible self-harm.
Prevention Measures Against Self-harm
Various mechanisms can be employed to cope with possible self-harm among the children in mid-childhood. Physical exercises relieve building emotions and stresses(Muehlenkamp et al, .2010). It relaxes the mind and mental state. Through playing with peers, the children bond and create a friendlier environment to open up. A problem shared is half solved. Children in the middle age category need people around them whom they can trust with what they are undergoing. Music heals wounded souls in the heart. Therefore, children should be encouraged to listen to cool music and play musical instruments like piano and guitar.
In a nutshell, self-injury is real and can rapidly be eliminated. Its consequences, if not addressed early enough, can materialize into adulthood. It is critical that children in mid-childhood are provided with the conducive learning environment, be given appropriate health attention and guided accordingly with mechanisms to deal and cope with situations that can cause displeasure.
Hawton, K., Saunders, K. E., & O'Connor, R. C. (2012). Self-harm and suicide in adolescents. The Lancet, 379(9834), 2373-2382.
Rathus, S. A. (2013). Childhood and adolescence: Voyages in development. Cengage Learning.Rossouw, T. I., & Fonagy, P. (2012). Mentalization-based treatment for self-harm in adolescents: a randomized controlledtrial. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(12), 1304-1313.
Fisher, H. L., Moffitt, T. E., Houts, R. M., Belsky, D. W., Arseneault, L., & Caspi, A. (2012). Bullying victimisation and risk of self harm in early adolescence: longitudinal cohort study. bmj, 344, e2683.
Rossouw, T. I., & Fonagy, P. (2012). Mentalization-based treatment for self-harm in adolescents: a randomized controlledtrial. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(12), 1304-1313.
Muehlenkamp, J. J., Walsh, B. W., & McDade, M. (2010). Preventing non-suicidal self-injury in adolescents: The signs of self-injury program. Journal of youth and adolescence, 39(3), 306-314
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