The developmental trajectory of self-injurious behaviours in individuals with Prader Willi Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder and intellectual disability

Lauren J. Rice, Kylie M. Gray, Patricia Howlin, John Taffe, Bruce J. Tonge, Stewart Einfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


In the present study we examined the nature and developmental trajectory of self-injurious behaviour in Prader Willi syndrome (PWS) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The development of interventions is greatly aided by understanding gene to behaviour pathways, and this requires an accurate description of the behaviour phenotype, that is, which types and natural history of self-injurious behaviour are more common in PWS and ASD and which are shared with other forms of developmental disability. Self-injury displayed by individuals with PWS and individuals with ASD was compared with that reported in a group of individuals with intellectual disability due to mixed aetiology (ID group). Three self-injurious behaviours (head banging, skin-picking and hitting and/or biting self) were measured on five occasions over 18 years using the Developmental Behaviour Checklist (DBC) a well-validated caregiver report measure. Rates of skin picking were higher in individuals with PWS and hitting and/or biting self was higher in individuals with ASD compared to the ID group. Rates of head banging were similar across the three groups. Over time, skin-picking and head banging increased with age for individuals with ASD and hitting and/or biting self increased for the PWS group. In the PWS and mixed ID groups head banging decreased with age. These findings suggest that the typology and developmental trajectories of self-injurious behaviours differ between those with PWS and ASD.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2016


  • Prader Willi syndrome
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • self injurious behaviour
  • skin-picking
  • developmental trajectory

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