Risk factors and topographies for self-injurious behaviour in a sample of adults with intellectual developmental disorders

A. Folch, M. J. Cortés, L. Salvador-Carulla, P. Vicens, M. Irazábal, S. Muñoz, L. Rovira, C. Orejuela, J. M. Haro, E. Vilella, R. Martínez-Leal

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Self-injurious behaviour (SIB) is a prevalent form of challenging behaviour in people with intellectual developmental disorders (IDD). Existing research has yielded conflicting findings concerning the major risk factors involved, and in addition, SIB shows multiple topographies and presentations. Although presence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and severity of intellectual disability (ID) are known risk factors for SIB, there are no studies comparing SIB topographies by severity degrees of ID and ASD. The purpose of the present paper has been to identify risk factors and topographies for SIB in a representative, stratified and randomised sample of adults with IDD. Method: This study was conducted on the basis of data collected by the POMONA-ESP project, in a sample of 833 adults with IDD. Data concerning demographic and health information, ASD symptoms, psychopathology and ID, have been analysed to determine the presence of risk factors for SIB among participants and to explore the occurrence and topographies of SIB across different severity levels of ID and ASD symptoms. Results: Self-injurious behaviour prevalence in the sample was 16.2%. Younger age, oral pain, greater severity of ID, presence of dual diagnosis, psychiatric medication intake and higher scores on Childhood Autism Rating Scale were risk factors for SIB among participants, whereas number of areas with functioning limitations, place of residence, diagnosis of epilepsy and sex were not. SIB was more frequent in participants with ASD symptoms regardless of its severity level, and they displayed a higher number of different topographies of SIB. People with profound ID without co-morbid ASD symptoms showed similar results concerning SIB prevalence and topographies. Conclusions: Knowledge on risk factors and topographies of SIB might play a vital role in the development of prevention strategies and management of SIB in people with IDD. The mere presence of ASD symptoms, regardless of its severity level, can be a crucial factor to be taken into account in assessing SIB. Accordingly, the presence of SIB in people with ID, especially when presented with a varied number of topographies, might provide guidance on ASD differential diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1018-1029
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


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