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Pediatrics. 1990 Mar;85(3 Pt 2):437-41.

Children with self-injurious behavior.

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Kennedy Institute for Handicapped Children, Baltimore, Maryland.


Self-injurious behavior is a serious problem that is not uncommon among individuals with mental retardation. Medical and developmental characteristics of 97 children, adolescents, and young adults (age range 11 months to 21 years, 11 months) assessed and treated for self-injurious behavior in a specialized, interdisciplinary inpatient unit between 1980 and 1988 were reviewed. This population differed from those reported in previous studies in that it was of school age and predominantly community based. Severe or profound mental retardation was present in 82.5% of our patients. The causative diagnoses associated with self-injurious behavior were similar to those of severe mental retardation alone. Associated disabilities represented at greater than expected frequencies included pervasive developmental disorders, visual impairment, and a history of infantile spasms. Most patients (81.4%) engaged in more than one type of self-injurious behavior. The most common topographies were head banging, biting, head hitting, body hitting, and scratching. Physical injury was documented in 77% of cases; the injuries most frequently reported were excoriations, scars/callus formation, hematomas, and local infection. As community placement of handicapped individuals continues to increase, pediatricians will be called upon to monitor patients who engage in self-injurious behavior.

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