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Self-Injurious Behavior

Self-injurious behavior (SIB) involves the occurrence of behavior that could result in physical injury to one's own body. SIB is displayed by 10 to 15 percent of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Common forms of SIB include, but are not limited to, head-hitting, head-banging and self-biting. SIB can result in minor injuries such as scratches and bruises or more severe injuries such as blindness, broken bones, or even death.

There are a variety of reasons why an individual may engage in self-injury. For example, engaging in self-injury may result in attention or access to a preferred toy or activity. Self-injury also occurs to escape from or avoid low preferred activities such as activities of daily living (e.g., brushing teeth) or academic demands. SIB may also occur because it provides sensory input to an area of the body or reduces pain, similar to how one may press on their head or eyes to temporarily reduce pain when they have a headache. Behavioral interventions have been demonstrated to be effective for treating self-injury.

References for Further Reading

Beavers GA, Iwata BA, Lerman DC. (2013). Thirty years of research on the functional analysis of problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46(1), 1-21.

Hanley GP, Iwata BA, McCord BE. (2003). Functional analysis of problem behavior: A review. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 36(2), 147–185.

Iwata BA, Dorsey MF, Slifer KJ, Bauman KE, Richman GS. (1994). Toward a functional analysis of self-injury. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27(2), 197-209. (Reprinted with permission from Analysis and Intervention in Developmental Disabilities, 2, 3-20, 1982)

Iwata BA, Pace GM, Dorsey MF, Zarcone JR, Vollmer TR, Smith RG, Rodgers TA, Lerman DC, Shore BA, Mazalesk JL, et al. (1994). The functions of self-injurious behavior: An experimental-epidemiological analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27(2), 215-240.

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