Prevalence and Risk-Markers of Self-Harm in Autistic Children and Adults [2020]

Self-harm is purportedly common in autistic individuals, but under-researched, particularly in younger samples and those without intellectual disability. This study aimed to describe prevalence, profile and correlates of self-harm in autistic individuals without impairments in adaptive functioning. Parents of autistic participants (n = 83) completed questionnaires regarding the presence/topography of self-harm, demographic characteristics, autism severity, age of diagnosis, affect, activity levels and repetitive behaviour. 24.10% of participants engaged in self-harm. Self‐harm was associated with significantly higher levels of impulsivity, over-activity, negative affect, compulsive behaviour and insistence on sameness. Low mood and overactivity/impulsivity predicted the presence of self-harm, with the model correctly classifying 82.9% of cases. Findings highlight a role for impaired behavioural inhibition and low mood in the aetiological mechanisms underpinning self-harm in autism.

Lucy Licence, Chris Oliver, Jo Moss & Caroline Richards
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, volume 50, pages3561–3574(2020)