Self-injurious behavior: A comparison between Prader-Willi syndrome, Down syndrome and Autism

Serafino Buono, Fabio Scannella, Maria B. Palmigiano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The term Self-injurious Behavior (SIB) represents behavioral characteristics that can damage body tissue. Persons with Intellectual Disability (ID) have a greater probability of developing inadequate behavior such as SIB. Literature indicates the presence of SIB in different syndromes. In the Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) the most frequent physical manifestation is skin-picking, which involves the arms, legs, and hands. In the Down Syndrome (DS), eyes and ears are more greatly affected by SIB. Prevalent SIB regards head-hitting and eyes. In subjects with Autistic Disturbances (AD), effects of SIB can be found more frequently in the head, hands, and legs. The more common typologies of SIB are self-biting and self-hitting. The sample was composed of 84 persons with ID and associated syndromes (PWS, DS, AD). The SIB has been identified through administering a specific assessment instrument to caregivers. The collected data show that self-inflicted injuries are present in all three groups. In groups with PWS and AD most common examples regard the hands, respectively 90% and 55%; subjects with DS show SIB on the mouth (48%). SIB most frequently shown in subjects with PWS are "skinpicking" (50%), in subjects with DS grinding their teeth (32%), in those with AD the prevalent SIB is "body-hand-hitting" and "body-object hitting" (41%). Our data show some convergences with results from lite S the most common manifestation of SIB is "skinpicking"), while other results are not confirmed. Differences could be explained according to more restricted or wide definitions of SIB.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-201
Number of pages15
JournalLife Span and Disability
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


  • Autistic disorder
  • Down syndrome
  • Intellectual disability
  • Prader-willi syndrome
  • Self-injurious behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Health(social science)


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