According to a new study that conducted interviews with children from New Jersey, U.S, children as young as 7 years of age are intentionally harming themselves as a means of escaping emotional stress.
The research which has been today published in the journal Paediatrics involved 665 children ranging in age from 7 to 15. It was reported that as many as 8 percent of children aged 7-8 admitted self-harming. This is a much higher percentage than ever previously anticipated. Of the 8 percent, it was also reported that around 70 percent of those children had done so more than once.
In line with previous findings, 4 percent of children aged 11-12 and over 13 percent of children aged 14-15 also intentionally injured themselves.
There is a general consensus that self harming takes place in response to emotional and psychological pain. People who choose to self harm often report that the physical pain is a means of expressing the internal turmoil they may be experiencing. The physical pain permits self-compassion and self-care this activates the bodies soothing system, this releases ‘feel good’ hormones. This process therefore reinforces the desire to self-harm.
The research has shown that significantly more young children are using self-harm as a means of coping with stress than ever previously thought. It is clear that children need to be given alternative outlets for their emotional stress and need to be taught different coping mechanisms.
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to relieve emotional and psychological stress. Emotional Freedom Technique or ‘tapping’ has also been found to be particularly useful for children and young people as a means of coping with difficult emotions and life events. Both of these coping measures require the child to learn techniques which they can then utilise whenever required.