A Systematic Review of Risk for the Development and Persistence of Self-injurious Behavior in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities


Self-injurious behavior (SIB) by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities including autism (I/DD) is among the most clinically disturbing, socially costly, and scientifically challenging behavior disorders. Forty years of clinical research has produced a knowledge base supporting idiographic behavioral assessment and treatment approaches. Despite the treatment progress, from a public health and population perspective, we argue it is less clear that we have reduced the disorder's burden. The developmental course of the disorder is mostly unknown and empirically informed population-level models of risk are absent. In this review, we systematically examined the published scientific literature specific to risk for SIB in the I/DD population. We reviewed study methodology in detail intentionally informed by an epidemiological perspective with a set of questions intended to test the quality of the inferences about risk. Results are discussed in terms of conceptual, methodological, and translational issues with respect to what needs to be done to create credible and useful clinical models for SIB risk in the I/DD population.

Suggested Citation

Dimian, A. F., & Symons, F. J. (2022). A systematic review of risk for the development and persistence of self-injurious behavior in intellectual and developmental disabilities. Clinical Psychology Review, 102158. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2022.102158


Peer-Reviewed Article 


  • Specific disability
    • Intellectual/developmental disability (IDD)