Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Gordon C. Hopper


A study was conducted to investigate chronic self-injurious behaviors (SIB) in nonretarded adults. Sixty-three subjects (47 females, 16 males), obtained primarily by clinician referrals, voluntarily completed retrospective questionnaires which were followed by 1- to 3-hour private, face-to-face interviews with the researcher. Data collected about chronic SIB were: (a) onset, (b) modalities, (c) frequency, (d) reasons for SIB from subjects' perceptions, (e) factor/situations reported being associated with SIB, (f) subjects' reports of pain and/or pleasure in SIB, (g) subjects' specific affects/cognitions immediately pre and post self-injury, (h) incidence of childhood abuse, (i) gender and relationship of the abuser, and (j) incidence of rape in adulthood. All reported multi-modalities in SIB with remissions and exacerbations. Most offered six to ten reasons for engaging in SIB; relieving emotional pain, punishing self, and expressing rage were the most commonly reported reasons. Fifty-two subjects reported early and middle childhood sexual and emotional abuse; 11 subjects did not report sexual abuse. Most victimized subjects indicated prolonged, incestuous abuse. If disclosure of sexual abuse occurred, most reported that negative responses from family members worsened the trauma. Many of the victimized subjects expressed symptoms suggestive of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When specific affects/cognitions were analyzed by correlated t-test for pre self-injury versus post self-injury, variations of t-values resulted. Significant differences were found in rage, worthlessness, compulsivity, and a need to be punished, while no significant differences were found in post self-injury in sadness, depression, guilt, and nervousness. Much of the data include subjects' statements and disclosures.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Phyllis J. Nelson Priest



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

161 pages