A Meta-Analysis of Treatment for Self-Injurious Behavior in Children and Adolescents With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

A Meta-Analysis of Treatment for Self-Injurious Behavior in Children and Adolescents With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Moore, T. R. Lee, S. H. Freeman, R. Mahmoundi, M. Dimian, A. Riegelman, A. Simacek, J. J.
Behavior Modification
Self-injurious behavior (SIB) among children and youth with developmental disabilities has not diminished in prevalence despite the availability of effective interventions, and the impact on quality of life for people and their families is devastating. The current meta-analysis reviews SIB intervention research between 2011 and 2021 using single-case experimental designs with children and youth up to 21 years old and provides a quantitative synthesis of data from high-quality studies including moderator analyses to determine effects of participant and study characteristics on intervention outcomes. Encouraging findings include a high level of effectiveness across studies in the decrease of SIB (Tau-U = -0.90) and increase of positive behavior (Tau-U = 0.73), as well as an increase in studies (relative to prior reviews) reporting intervention fidelity, generalization, maintenance, and social validity. However, our findings shed limited light on potential moderating variables in the development of interventions for children and youth who exhibit SIB. Of the potential moderators of intervention effects, only implementer (researcher/therapist vs. parent/caregiver) and setting (clinic vs. home) were significantly associated with improved outcomes. We discuss the need for more robust involvement of natural communities of implementers in SIB intervention research to better equip them to effectively and sustainably meet the needs of people they care for. We also discuss the importance of creating systems enabling broad access for children with SIB to effective interventions in service of reducing burden for people, families, and society over time.

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Type of intervention

Treatment and Child Welfare Interventions


Mental Health Problems and Disorders

Behavior Problems

Behavioral Disorders

Emotional Problems



Autism Spectrum Disorder

Biological Risk Factors, Diseases and Symptoms

Mental/Physical Impairment


Pharmacological Treatment



The organization of interventions

School/Preschoolbased Interventions

24-hour Treatment

Age group

Infants and Toddlers (0-2 years)

Preschool Aged Children (3-5 years)

School Aged Children (6-12 years)

Adolescents (13-18 years)

More information
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