Toward a functional analysis of self-injury.

J Appl Behav Anal 1994 ;27(2):197-209

John F. Kennedy Institute.

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.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1901/jaba.1994.27-197DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1297798PMC
September 1994

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