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Gilligan, C. Machoian, L. (2002). Learning to Speak the Language: A Relational Interpretation of an Adolescent Girl's Suicidality. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 3(3):321-341.

(2002). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 3(3):321-341

Learning to Speak the Language: A Relational Interpretation of an Adolescent Girl's Suicidality

Carol Gilligan, Ph.D. and Lisa Machoian, ED.D.

Through a clinical case study, this paper explores the peak in girls' suicide attempts at ages 13 and 14 and offers a relational interpretation of girls' suicidal behaviors as symbolic and indirect speech, reflecting a language that is deeply encultured. In early adolescence, girls learn that if they threaten to harm or endanger themselves or actually do so, people take notice. Girls then discover the communicative value of threatening or enacting harm, danger, or violence against themselves. Thus they “learn

to speak the language of violence.” The clinical case illustrates how girls who speak this language can be called manipulative and not taken seriously, but also how, when their communication is heard and interpreted relationally, it can explain why girls' suicidality peaks in early adolescence and why it is associated with hope.

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