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Epidemiology of self-injurious behaviour in adults with learning disabilities

  • Richard A. Collacott (a1), Sally-Ann Cooper (a2), David Branford (a3) and Catherine McGrother (a4)

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


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.


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 behaviours 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.


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

Corresponding author
Dr Sally-Ann Cooper, St Mary's Hospital, London Road, Kettering, Northants NN15 7PW
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
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Epidemiology of self-injurious behaviour in adults with learning disabilities

  • Richard A. Collacott (a1), Sally-Ann Cooper (a2), David Branford (a3) and Catherine McGrother (a4)
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