Completed research


Laura McKegg – Exploring the constructs young people hold about non-suicidal self-injury: A pilot study.

Laura is an Honours student (2016). She has completed a pilot study within the framework of Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory (Kelly, 1955), which is based on the idea that people actively construct their social worlds by using a network of bipolar constructs, e.g., good/bad, truthful/dishonest. Individuals are ‘positioned’ along personally meaningful dimensions, although the relative importance of each dimension and the positioning of individuals can alter across time and situations. Using a technique called Repertory Grid Analysis is it possible to elicit and map constructs organized around specified topics. In this study Laura interviewed 10 young adults (with no history of NSSI behaviour) to elicit their constructs and construct ratings around the topic of NSSI. This project has (a) provided some insights into how non self-harming individuals conceptualize self-harming, and (b) helped us to fine-tune our techniques for a larger planned study involving individuals who engage in NSSI.

Laura submitted her project report for marking (December 2016).
Link to Laura’s abstract:  Laura – Report Abstract

Kelly Fisher – Supporting the Supporters: How Adolescent Females Respond to a Friend Who Engages in Non-Suicidal Self-Injury.

Research shows that young people are often aware of those who are engaging in self-harm among their peer group (James, 2013), with friends frequently being the ‘resource of choice during times of emotional distress’ (Barton, Hirsch, & Lovejoy, 2013). Due to a scarcity of research in this area the aims of this study were to explore how young female adolescents support friends who engage in NSSI and how the supporting adolescent is affected by this process.  A small sample of adolescents were interviewed with Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis the chosen methodology for this project.  Five themes were identified including NSSI and relationships, burden and responsibility, the helping response, costs of caring, and supporter needs.  Key findings highlighted the support requirements of adolescents in this role and how this assistance can be provided through the day-to-day context of young people’s lives (family, school, and wider community). Kelly was co-supervised by Assoc Prof Keith Tuffin (Massey).

A manuscript for submission to a journal is currently in preparation. Should be completed by end 2016.
Link to Kelly’s research: Summary of findings


Dr Shelley James

Shelley James graduated from Massey University with a DClinPsych in 2013. Her research thesis was entitled ‘Has cutting become cool? Normalising, social influence and socially-motivated deliberate self-harm in adolescent girls.’ In it she explores the social aspects of Deliberate Self-Harm (DSH) by looking at differences between adolescent females who self-harm and those who do not, and particularly their social reasoning. In her main study of 387 adolescent females she found that those who gave social reasons for their self-harming were more sensitive to peer pressure and slightly more likely to normalize their behaviours. However, none of those who self-harmed were exclusively social motivated, with emotional and psychological motivations also playing a role.
Links to Shelley’s research: Research uncovers truth about self-harm, Shelley’s thesis

Understanding Self-Harm A Massey Site