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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The experience of self-destructive behavior in First Nations adolescent girls Davis, Sarah


This study is an attempt to better understand the experience of self-destructive behaviour in First Nations adolescent girls by telling their stories, discussing factors that may contribute to the behaviours, and providing counselling insight. Not every Native girl experiences self-destructive behaviour, however those that do require more effective solutions to their problems. There is ample literature regarding non-Native girls and their experiences with self-destructive behaviour. This is not the case with Native girls, and this study is an attempt to fill the literature gap, and at the same time provide insight into counselling practice. Many factors may contribute to the experience of self-destructive behaviour in First Nations adolescent girls (e.g., gender, developmental stages, parenting, cultural norms and values, and discrimination). The combination of these issues compounds each other and creates the context for the experience of self-destructive behaviour specific to Native girls. This reality puts them at risk for truancy, juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harming, and ultimately suicide. In order to understand the circumstances or events that lead to a young Native woman's experience with self-destructive behaviour I interviewed three women using in-depth, semi structured interviews. When answering the open-ended questions I asked, the interviewees revealed a story with a beginning, middle, and end. This story reflected the different stages in their lives, childhood, adolescence, and eventually young adulthood. Analysis of the interviews through theme identification revealed common threads through each woman's life. Although each woman had unique experiences, their stories revealed many commonalties. These common themes reflect factors that counsellors should consider when counselling First Nations girls who are experiencing self-destructive behaviour. The results of the study suggest that counsellors should not isolate factors that lead to self-destructive behaviour. For example, First Nations girls experience not just racism or neglectful parenting — they experience both of the factors. The contributing factors begin early in life and compound one another as the girl's life progresses. Hopefully, this study contributes to the betterment of individual Native girls, also to the betterment of the families' and communities' health.

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