Toward a functional analysis of self-injury

J Appl Behav Anal. Summer 1994;27(2):197-209. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1994.27-197.

Abstract

This study describes the use of an operant methodology to assess functional relationships between self-injury and specific environmental events. The self-injurious behaviors of nine developmentally disabled subjects were observed during periods of brief, repeated exposure to a series of analogue conditions. Each condition differed along one or more of the following dimensions: (1) play materials (present vs absent), (2) experimenter demands (high vs low), and (3) social attention (absent vs noncontingent vs contingent). Results showed a great deal of both between and within-subject variability. However, in six of the nine subjects, higher levels of self-injury were consistently associated with a specific stimulus condition, suggesting that within-subject variability was a function of distinct features of the social and/or physical environment. These data are discussed in light of previously suggested hypotheses for the motivation of self-injury, with particular emphasis on their implications for the selection of suitable treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intellectual Disability / complications
  • Male
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / complications
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / prevention & control*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Task Performance and Analysis