Epidemiology of self-injurious behaviour in adults with learning disabilities

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Background There have been few epidemiological studies of the disabling and poorly understood disorder self-injurious behaviour among adults with learning disabilities.

Method Interviews were undertaken with the carers of adults known to the Leicestershire Learning Disabilities Register (n=2277).The Disability Assessment Schedule was used and information was also collected on demographic characteristics, developmental and physical status.

Results Self-injurious behaviour was present in 17.4% of the population. In 1.7% self-injurious behaviour occurred frequently and was severe. There was no gender difference between those with and without self-injurious behaviour. Both the chronological age and developmental quotient of individuals with self-injurious behaviour were lower than those of individuals without self-injurious behaviour. Autistic symptoms were more common among those with self-injurious behaviour. The association of self-injurious behaviour with a wide range of other maladaptive behaviour was highly significant. Logistic regression analysis retained age, developmental quotient, hearing status, immobility and number of autistic symptoms as explanatory variables for self-injurious behaviour.

Conclusions Self-injurious behaviour is a prevalent and disabling disorder among adults with learning disabilities.

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