PhD in Focus – Revisiting Gender: A Quantitative Study of Self-Injury in Young Adults
Name: Nina Lutz
Research group: Child and Adolescent Resilience and Mental Health
Supervisor: Tamsin Ford
Advisor: Sam Chamberlain, Sharon Neufeld, Paul Wilkinson
Can you give us a short background into what your PhD/MPhil was about?
My PhD examines gender disparities in non-suicidal self-injury across cisgender women, cisgender men, and gender non-conforming young adults. The dissertation begins with an overview of the gendered history of psychiatric literature on self-injury – the field has focused predominantly on young women and consequently portrayed self-injury as an inherently female behaviour. My quantitative chapters then investigate the aetiology of gender disparities in self-injury prevalence and evaluate gender similarities and differences in self-injury clinical severity and reported reasons for self-injuring. Overall, the dissertation aims to provide an empirical response to gender-based assumptions about self-injury.
How would you sum up your main findings?
Gender is highly relevant to the study of self-injury, and greater gender parity in self-injury research is needed as the field moves beyond its biased history. Results demonstrate that self-injury is significantly more common and clinically severe among gender non-conforming participants than their cisgender peers and among cisgender women compared to cisgender men. Gender disparities in levels of psychological distress, emotion dysregulation, and trauma symptomology contribute to gender differences in self-injury outcomes, pointing to societal causes of gender differences in stress and trauma exposure.
What made you want to do a PhD?
In short, I am deeply passionate about mental health and enjoy research!
What was your best day during your PhD?
Probably the day of my viva. I had a stimulating conversation about my research with academics I look up to, and it felt amazing to leave that Zoom meeting as Dr Lutz!
What was your worst day during your PhD?
I initially planned a mixed-methods dissertation involving a qualitative interview study with adults who self-injured. After spending two years getting the study up and running while coping with numerous pandemic-related delays, I realised I had run out of time to collect/analyse data for my dissertation. The day I officially “gave up” on the study was tough.
Do you have any advice for future PhD/MPhil students in Psychiatry?
Postgraduate research can be stressful and isolating, and the work won’t stop unless you take a break. Look after your own well-being and build up a supportive network of friends, family, supervisors/advisors, and other students who can help you through the tough parts. Take time to do the things that re-charge you, and remember that your mental health is more important than a degree.
What do you hope to do next?
I am applying for mental health research positions in the non-profit sector.
Keep up with Nina on LinkedIn
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