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Cognitive-Behavioural Model of Self-Injury and Bullying Among Imprisoned Young Offenders (From Suicide and Self-Injury in Prisons, P 45-49, 1997, Graham J. Towl, ed.)

NCJ Number
M Livingston; G Beck
Date Published
5 pages
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support a link between self-injurious behavior and bullying among imprisoned, male juvenile offenders; however, there has been no published research of which the authors are aware; this paper aims to address this gap by presenting a theoretical framework that assists in interpreting the anecdotal evidence.
This paper defines "bullying" as "any aggressive behaviors where an imbalance of power is apparent." Previous research has given some indication of the diversity of activities and behavior that are viewed as aspects of bullying by both protagonists and victims, as well as researchers. A prisoner who is being bullied may feel that, given the inmate subculture of not "grassing," he is unable to directly request help from the staff. A less direct approach is required. By engaging in self-injury, the inmate can communicate his distress to staff without being specific about its cause, and he can hope for a temporary change of location to the hospital and a permanent change to the vulnerable prisoner unit. The self-injurer may conclude that through one act of suffering, he can avoid the continuous and unpredictable pattern of being bullied. The behavioral learning model of self-injury is an attractive explanation of bullying- related self-injury in prisons, but data provided by Beck and Ireland (1995) raise questions about its explanatory potential. More work is required on furthering the understanding of both the roles of appraisal and coping in self-injury. It can only be hypothesized at this point as to whether the appraisal style presented in this paper is an antecedent or consequence of self- injurious behavior. The same is true for escape-avoidance coping. One implication is clear, however; young offenders who are vulnerable to either self-injury or bullying should be targeted for intervention as soon as they are admitted to an institution. Self-injury and bullying are easier to prevent than to stop. 18 references