Are white girls more likely to cut themselves?

In Psychology Today, Dr. Leonard Sax complains that people avoid talking about gender differences in people who cut themselves.  He writes:

I’m bothered that so few people want to address the gender differences in NSSI* – which I think are absolutely central to understanding why these young people are hurting themselves, and essential to intervening effectively with them.  Marilyn Manson is not Megan Fox.  Marilyn Manson’s issues are not Megan Fox’s issues.  Interventions which might have helped Marilyn Manson stop cutting would be unlikely to benefit Megan Fox, and vice versa.  Nevertheless — even people who really care about NSSI tend to overlook or deliberately understate gender issues here.  The leading non-profit organization concerned with NSSI, “To Write Love On Her Arms,” asserts on their web site that self-injury “. . .has the same occurrence between males and females.”  Not true.
Gender matters.  Why are people so afraid to talk about it?

But really, Dr. Sax, it’s not so bad.  There is no taboo against discussing gender differences, at least when the victims are disproportionately female.  It does appear to be true, however, that not enough people distinguish between different types of self-destructive behavior.  Cutting is not attempted suicide and it is certainly not the same as smashing one’s fist against a wall.
There does appear to be a taboo against serious discussion of racial disparities in cutting in the U.S.  I strongly suspect that white people are much more likely to cut themselves than blacks.  Asians are also probably more likely to do so.  It is claimed that South Asian women in the U.K. are at higher risk than white women.  Apparently, there is no taboo against addressing this.  Others have brought up the black/white disparity in cutting, here and here for example, but with no statistics or studies to support their claims.
But are there actual studies and statistics that deal with racial disparities in cutting in the United States?  It is doubtful, and I suspect the reason is that anecdotal evidence implies that whites are at higher risk than “people of color”.   Establishment people love to think they are iconoclasts and breakers of taboos.  If Dr. Sax were a true iconoclast, he would tackle the racial angle of cutting.  But pointing out that a problem disproportionately affects whites is a real taboo, not a make-believe one.  So we must either create our own studies or rely on guesswork for the time being.
*Non-Suicidal Self Injury

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10 Responses to Are white girls more likely to cut themselves?

  1. Maybe these women do this because they aren’t getting physical exercise.

  2. Certainly self-esteem is lower among whites than among blacks, and cutting is associated with low self-esteem, so I’d bet money that cutting is higher among whites. AFAIK the suicide rate is higher among whites as well, comparing females to females and males to males.
    But if you were to report that white girls cut themselves more, you’d be opening the door to someone pointing out that white men are more likely to be killed in combat, that white and Asian males are subject to officially-condoned discrimination in employment (institutional racism), and that racist prison gangs effectively reduce the severity of punishment for blacks and Mexicans in all but a few states.
    So best to keep this under the rug. Did you hear about those black street kids who got their feelings hurt when someone crossed the street to avoid them? Shame on America!!!

  3. countenance says:

    About suicide, the bon mot I have always heard is that girls and women try more often, boys and men succeed more often. I wonder if cutting is considered a suicide attempt.

  4. Anon says:

    Wasn’t there something about whites being relatively less sensitive to pain than blacks? That might also play a part in this gap.

  5. SFG says:

    It probably has to do with having a relatively easy life, honestly. Cutting, like anorexia, tends to affect the upper and middle classes. You’d expect that to include whites and Asians more often.

    • Kiwiguy says:

      This would be consistent with Ed Miller’s hypothesis that populations with greater demands for paternal provisioning, tend to be more anxious.
      “Paternal investment theory suggests that in cold climates males were selected for provisioning, rather than for mating success. In warm climates, where female gathering made male provisioning unessential, selection was for mating success. Male hunted meat was essential for female winter survival. Genes that encouraged mating success were selected for in warm (was cold) climates. Negroids (blacks) evolved in warm cold climates, while Caucasians (whites) and Mongoloids (Asians) evolved in colder climates. Mating is assisted by a strong sex drive, aggression, dominance, sociability, extraversion, impulsiveness, sensation seeking, and high testosterone. Provisioning is assisted by anxiety, altruism, empathy, behavioral restraint, gratification delay, and a long life span…
      Offspring survival in cold climates requires provisioning by male hunters, while it is not critical in warm climates. Thus, the optimal male tradeoff between seeking copulations and provisioning depends on the climate. Hence, the colder the climate a population evolved in, the more they should have evolved drives that lead to provisioning (altruism, sexual restraint, rule following behavior) while in tropical areas the drives should have evolved towards competing for mating opportunities (which implies dominance seeking, aggression, high masculinity, extraversion etc.). This can explain many of the observed differences between the major races. While cultural explanations exist for many of the behavioral differences, they are unable to explain such differences as body build, genital length, muscle structure, bone structure, the size of the liver, testosterone levels, and monoamine oxidase levels, all of which are explained by the paternal investment versus mating success theory.”
      “Paternal Provisioning versus Mate Seeking in Human Populations” Personality and Individual Differences, Vol. 17, August 1994, No. 2, 227-255.

  6. IsraelLive says:

    Are we counting paper cuts?

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