Applying the Dual-Taxonomy of Offending to Self-Injury: Do Offenders Exhibit Life-Course-Persistent Self-Injurious Behavior?



Hayden Smith & Jenelle Power

Victims & Offenders: An International Journal of Evidence-based Research, Policy, and Practice

September 2014



The prevention and treatment of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) represents a serious challenge to correctional health care staff, yet research has failed to document how the behavior develops over time. This research employed a life-course theoretical approach to assess 20 inmates who routinely engage in repetitive, serious NSSI while incarcerated. Findings indicate that these acts of NSSI were rooted in early trauma that disrupts age-appropriate trajectories and transitions. Respondents reported that NSSI started as a response to childhood experiences and became fixed prior to any form of incarceration. Self-injury within correctional facilities is explained as a coping mechanism used to reinforce personal control when faced with stress. The dual taxonomy of offenders is applied to inmates who engage in self-injurious behaviors, suggesting that a subgroup of offenders have life-course-persistent NSSI. Findings also revealed that inmates who routinely self-injure themselves are moved into increasingly restrictive milieus over time, which further aggravates the behavior.









Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee