Self-Injury among a Community Cohort of Young Children at Risk for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

William E. MacLean, Raymond C. Tervo, John Hoch, Mark Tervo, Frank J Symons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective: To identify risk factors for self-injurious behavior in young children with developmental delay and to determine whether that group is also more likely to exhibit other challenging behaviors. Study design: A retrospective chart review of 196 children <6 years of age referred for comprehensive neurodevelopmental evaluations. We analyzed child developmental level, receptive and expressive communication level, mobility, visual and auditory impairment, and co-morbid diagnoses of cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, and autism. Results: Sixty-three children (32%; mean age = 42.7 mo, 63% male) were reported to engage in self-injurious behavior at the time of the evaluation. Children with and without self-injurious behavior did not differ on overall developmental level, expressive or receptive language level, mobility status or sensory functioning, or in rates of identification with cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, or autism. However, the self-injurious behavior group was rated significantly higher by parents on destructive behavior, hurting others, and unusual habits. Conclusions: Although self-injurious behavior was reported to occur in 32% of the cohort, the modal frequency was monthly/weekly and the severity was low. No significant differences were found for risk markers reported for adults, adolescents, and older children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. However, self-injurious behavior was comorbid with other behavior problems in this sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)979-983
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010


  • CBCL
  • CDI
  • Child Behavior Checklist
  • Child Development Inventory
  • ICAP
  • ID
  • Intellectual disability
  • Inventory for Client and Agency Planning

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