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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(3), 307; doi:10.3390/ijerph14030307

The Social Norms of Suicidal and Self-Harming Behaviours in Scottish Adolescents

1
Division of Psychology, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK
2
Department of Psychological Sciences and Health, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow G1 1QE, UK
3
Psychology Research Group, Bournemouth University, Fern Barrow, Poole BH12 5BB, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Rory O’Connor and Gwendolyn Portzky
Received: 17 January 2017 / Revised: 2 March 2017 / Accepted: 11 March 2017 / Published: 15 March 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue From Understanding Suicide Risk to Preventing Suicide)
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Abstract

Although the suicidal and self-harming behaviour of individuals is often associated with similar behaviours in people they know, little is known about the impact of perceived social norms on those behaviours. In a range of other behavioural domains (e.g., alcohol consumption, smoking, eating behaviours) perceived social norms have been found to strongly predict individuals’ engagement in those behaviours, although discrepancies often exist between perceived and reported norms. Interventions which align perceived norms more closely with reported norms have been effective in reducing damaging behaviours. The current study aimed to explore whether the Social Norms Approach is applicable to suicidal and self-harming behaviours in adolescents. Participants were 456 pupils from five Scottish high-schools (53% female, mean age = 14.98 years), who completed anonymous, cross-sectional surveys examining reported and perceived norms around suicidal and self-harming behaviour. Friedman’s ANOVA with post-hoc Wilcoxen signed-ranks tests indicated that proximal groups were perceived as less likely to engage in or be permissive of suicidal and self-harming behaviours than participants’ reported themselves, whilst distal groups tended towards being perceived as more likely to do so. Binary logistic regression analyses identified a number of perceived norms associated with reported norms, with close friends’ norms positively associated with all outcome variables. The Social Norms Approach may be applicable to suicidal and self-harming behaviour, but associations between perceived and reported norms and predictors of reported norms differ to those found in other behavioural domains. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are considered. View Full-Text
Keywords: suicide; self-harm; social norms; normative perception; social influence suicide; self-harm; social norms; normative perception; social influence
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Quigley, J.; Rasmussen, S.; McAlaney, J. The Social Norms of Suicidal and Self-Harming Behaviours in Scottish Adolescents. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 307.

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