Symptom severity as a risk factor for self-injurious behaviours in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders


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Abstract

BackgroundSelf-injurious behaviours (SIB) are highly prevalent in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and have deleterious effects on the individual and their environment. The aim of this study was to examine SIB prevalence and associated features in a population of 152 adolescents with ASD and to determine risk factors for SIB.MethodsThe present study uses a subset of data of a longitudinal follow-up of 152 children with ASD. The presence of a low or high level of self-injury was assessed at adolescence through the Aberrant Behaviour Checklist completed by parents. Clinical and social variables regarding severity of autism symptoms, psychological development, adaptive behaviours, parental quality of life and total intervention time were collected during childhood (mean age = 5 years, SD = 1.6) and at adolescence (mean age = 15 years, SD = 1.3).ResultsAbout 35.8% of adolescents with ASD in our sample displayed self-injury, which was frequently associated with other challenging behaviours and was related to severity of autism symptoms, adaptive skills, intellectual functioning and language level (P < 0.001). The main risk factor for SIB at adolescence was severity of autism symptoms (P = 0.04). Cognitive development during childhood was found to be a protective factor (P = 0.03) whereas at adolescence, the main protective factor was communicative abilities (P = 0.04).ConclusionsThese data showed that SIB remained highly prevalent at adolescence and yielded risk and protective factors for developing SIB at this period of life. Limitations and perspectives for future research are discussed.

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