Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 42, Issue 11, pp 2460–2470 | Cite as

Risk Factors Associated with Self-Injurious Behaviors in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Emma G. DuerdenEmail author
  • Hannah K. Oatley
  • Kathleen M. Mak-Fan
  • Patricia A. McGrath
  • Margot J. Taylor
  • Peter Szatmari
  • S. Wendy Roberts
Original Paper


While self-injurious behaviors (SIB) can cause significant morbidity for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), little is known about its associated risk factors. We assessed 7 factors that may influence self-injury in a large cohort of children with ASD: (a) atypical sensory processing; (b) impaired cognitive ability; (c) abnormal functional communication; (d) abnormal social functioning; (e) age; (f) the need for sameness; (g) rituals and compulsions. Half (52.3%, n = 126) of the children (n = 241, aged 2–19 years) demonstrated SIB. Abnormal sensory processing was the strongest single predictor of self-injury followed by sameness, impaired cognitive ability and social functioning. Since atypical sensory processing and sameness have a greater relative impact on SIB, treatment approaches that focus on these factors may be beneficial in reducing self-harm in children with ASD.


Pain Sensory Self-injury Autism Human 



The authors wish to thank Ann Thompson (McMaster University) and Carolyn Noakes (Autism Research Unit, The Hospital for Sick Children) for helping with data entry and management. This study was partially funding by an operating grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR MOP-81611), a Fellowship from the CIHR (EGD), a Research Training Competition Fellowship from the Hospital for Sick Children (EGD), and a Reva Gerstein Fellowship in Paediatric Psychology (EGD).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emma G. Duerden
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hannah K. Oatley
    • 2
  • Kathleen M. Mak-Fan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Patricia A. McGrath
    • 3
  • Margot J. Taylor
    • 1
    • 2
  • Peter Szatmari
    • 5
  • S. Wendy Roberts
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Diagnostic ImagingThe Hospital for Sick ChildrenTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of AnesthesiaUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Holland Bloorview Children’s Rehabilitation CentreTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Offord Centre for Child StudiesMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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