Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower

Second Advisor

Sarah Hayes-Skelton

Third Advisor

Hillary Hurst Bush


Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) struggle with self-injurious behaviors (SIBs) across the lifespan. In addition to social and communication deficits and restricted and repetitive behaviors, individuals with ASD often struggle with significant intrapersonal (e.g., anxiety, depression) and intrapersonal distress (e.g., loneliness). However, limited research has examined how these factors relate to the functions of SIBs among young adults with ASD. We compared the methods and functions of SIBs among groups of young adults with ASD and neurotypical young adults. We found that young adults with ASD and neurotypical adults engaged in similar SIB methods. Likewise, we did not identify differences in SIB functions between participants with ASD and neurotypical participants. The present study is also the first to examine associations among the functions of SIBs and intrapersonal and interpersonal distress among young adults with ASD. We found that communication skills deficits, anxiety, and depression were associated with SIB functions. Conversely, loneliness, social skills deficits, emotion regulation deficits, and restricted and repetitive behaviors were not associated with SIB functions. We describe the clinical implications of our findings.


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