Self-injurious behaviour in people with intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder

Chris Oliver*, Lucy Licence, Caroline Richards

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
879 Downloads (Pure)


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This review summarises the recent trends in research in the field of self-injurious behaviour in people with intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder.

RECENT FINDINGS: New data on incidence, persistence and severity add to studies of prevalence to indicate the large scale of the clinical need. A number of person characteristics have been repeatedly identified in prevalence and cohort studies that: can be considered as risk markers (e.g. stereotyped behaviour, autism spectrum disorder) and indicate possible causal mechanisms (e.g. sleep disorder, anxiety). Studies have started to integrate traditional operant learning paradigms with known person characteristics and reviews and meta-analyses of applied behaviour analytic procedures can now inform practice.

SUMMARY: Despite these positive developments interventions and appropriate support falls far short of the required need. Expansions in applied research are warranted to develop and evaluate innovative service delivery models that can translate knowledge of risk markers and operant learning paradigms into widespread, low cost routine clinical practice. Alongside this, further pure research is needed to elucidate the direction of causality of implicated risk factors, in order to understand and intervene more effectively in self-injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-101
JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychiatry
Issue number2
Early online date26 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • intellectual disability
  • self-injury
  • applied behaviour analysis
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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