Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2440/70785
Type: Thesis
Title: Self murder: suicide and the intolerable state of a fragmented self.
Author: Chamberlain, Peter N.
Issue Date: 2011
School/Discipline: School of Psychology
Abstract: Suicidal behaviour remains a serious public health issue world-wide despite the substantial literature on the subject and the development and implementation of prevention and intervention strategies. Notwithstanding the considerable contributions of researchers to date, suicidality is not fully understood and there remains a sub-group within the suicidal population whose behaviour cannot be adequately explained in terms of current understandings. Consequently, this thesis applies Heinz Kohut’s (e.g. 1971, 1977) psychoanalytic theory of self psychology to the subject of suicidality. Specifically, it examines the relationship between individual differences in the cohesiveness of the construct of self and suicidal behaviour. Self psychology attributes primacy to the self in the human experience, and is essentially a theory of structural deficit in the self. The theory focuses on the enduring psychological effort to realise ones ambitions and maintain a healthy sense of self cohesion. The research has a clinical emphasis and applies a mixed methods approach to data collection and analyses. Several epidemiological survey data sets are analysed to progress the central argument that individuals with a fragmented sense of self are vulnerable to suicidal behaviour. Additional data are also collected through the 2009 South Australian Health Omnibus Survey, the Australian National Epidemiological Study of Self Injury (Martin, Swannell, Harrison, Hazell, & Taylor, 2010), and several samples of convenience. The mixed method study collected qualitative and quantitative data from suicide attempters admitted to the emergency department of the Royal Adelaide Hospital and quantitative data from controls, resulting in the development of the Adelaide Self Cohesion Scale (ASCS). The final study validated the measure with data from suicide attempters, suicidal ideators, and community controls. The results of the research demonstrate that one’s sense of self is a core determinant for vulnerability to suicidal behaviour. The key suicidality findings are: (1) the significance of individual differences in the stability of self, and how this relates to early life experiences, (2) experiences of an incohesive sense of self is common in the suicidal, (3) trauma, as a risk factor, is best understood in terms of its proximity to one’s sense of self, and (4) sexual orientation is a more appropriate research variable than biological sex in suicide research. In addition to providing a plausible explanation for individual differences in the suicidal, this novel approach to suicidality also advances two original concepts: the extension of Cannon’s (1929) fight-flight response, and the ASCS for the measurement of self cohesion. The results of the findings in this dissertation have important implications for understanding the unique role of one’s sense of self in determining an individual’s vulnerability to suicidal behaviour. The consequences for clinical interventions and prevention strategies, together with the limitations of the research and future directions, are discussed.
Advisor: Delfabbro, Paul Howard
Goldney, Robert Donald
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Psychology, 2011
Keywords: suicide; self; Kohut; self psychology; suicidality
Provenance: Copyright material removed from digital thesis. See print copy in University of Adelaide Library for full text.
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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