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The Analysis of Self-Mutilation in Adolescence Based on the Theory of Mentalization: From Sukhvinder in the Novel ‘Casual Vacancy’
J Korean Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2019; 30(3): 100-108
Published online July 1, 2019
© 2019 Korean Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Mi Ae Oh1, Chanmin Park1, Yeon Jeong Lee2, Minha Hong3, Ju Hee Han4, Soo Hyun Oh5, Jun Heon Park6, and Geon Ho Bahn7

1Department of Psychiatry, Kyung Hee University Hospital, Seoul, Korea
2Department of Psychiatry, Soonchunghyang University Seoul Hospital, Seoul, Korea
3Department of Psychiatry, Myongji Hospital, Hanyang University School of Medicine, Ilsan, Korea
4Gajoksarang Neuropsychiatric Clinic, Seoul, Korea
5Department of Life Sciences, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea
6Neomaum Clinic, Ansan, Korea
7Department of Psychiatry, Kyung Hee University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
Correspondence to: Geon Ho Bahn, Department of Psychiatry, Kyung Hee University College of Medicine, 23 Kyungheedae-ro, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul 02447, Korea
Tel: +82-2-958-8556, Fax: +82-2-957-1997, E-mail:
Received May 13, 2019; Accepted May 20, 2019.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Objectives: Adolescence involves a number of developmental processes, as well as unique psychological characteristics and behaviors. An increased rate of internet and game addictions, school violence, and suicide may either represent aspects of adolescence or a psychopathological phenomenon. There is an urgent need to develop software programs that can prevent and resolve adolescent behavioral problems. We applied the mentalization theory to interpret and find solutions for problems faced by adolescent characters in literature.
Methods: In Joan Rowling’s novel “Casual Vacancy,” Sukhvinder is a girl with problems representative of those encountered by modern adolescents; she is a victim of bullying and engages in self-mutilation. We targeted her problematic behaviors as representative of a prementalized state.
Results: Born into an upper-class English family with Pakistani origins, Sukhvinder, unlike her siblings, fails her parents’ expectations. Whenever she faces a psychological crisis, she regresses into the teleological mode (the most primitive pre-mentalization stage) and regains her sense of self by cutting herself. After her friend’s suicide, however, she begins to communicate with her parents and moves toward mentalization.
Conclusion: By analyzing Sukhvinder’s behavior, we assessed patterns of attachment, empathy, and mentalization, and identified corrective approaches for problematic behaviors. We believe that the presented interpretation may serve as a foundation for the development of models for understanding adolescent deviant behaviors.
Keywords : Prementalization; Psychic equivalence; Self-mutilation; Casual Vacancy; Teleological mode; Pretend mode.

July 2019, 30 (3)
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