Risk factors for challenging behaviour and psychopathology in adults with Down syndrome

J Intellect Disabil Res. 2018 Nov;62(11):941-951. doi: 10.1111/jir.12541. Epub 2018 Aug 19.


Background: This study explored the role of demographic, psychosocial, stress and life event-related risk factors for psychopathology and challenging behaviour in a clinical sample of adults with Down syndrome.

Method: A convenience sample of adults with Down syndrome seen through a specialised clinic was assessed through interviews and questionnaires specifically designed for use in people with intellectual disabilities.

Results: Recent negative life events and stressors were significantly correlated with mental and behavioural health, and significantly predicted irritability, lethargy and depressed mood. Social avoidance was predicted by stress related to anticipation and social-environmental stressors, and negatively predicted by verbal ability. Ritual-related stress predicted obsessive-compulsive behaviour. Participants who did not have a job or vocational placement were significantly more depressed than participants who did.

Conclusions: Adults with Down syndrome should be provided increased supports for coping with negative life events and stressors. Interventions should also emphasise community engagement, such as employment, and access to psychosocial supports that teach coping and self-regulation skills when faced with stressors and negative life events.

Keywords: Down syndrome; adults; behavioural health; challenging behaviour; life events; mental health; psychopathology; stressors.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms* / epidemiology
  • Affective Symptoms* / etiology
  • Affective Symptoms* / physiopathology
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depression* / complications
  • Depression* / etiology
  • Depression* / physiopathology
  • Down Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Down Syndrome* / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders* / etiology
  • Mental Disorders* / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Problem Behavior*
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological* / complications
  • Stress, Psychological* / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological* / physiopathology
  • Young Adult