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August 1968

Self-Destructive Behavior in Physically Abused Schizophrenic ChildrenReport of Cases

Author Affiliations

Riverdale, NY
From the Henry Ittleson Center for Child Research, Riverdale, NY.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1968;19(2):171-179. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1968.01740080043008

IN a previous investigation of self-mutilation, this author described the frequent occurrence of self-mutilation in a group of school-age schizophrenic children at a residential treatment center.1 The self-mutilation was shown to have a significant relationship to prior infantile headbanging which was regarded as a precursor. In cases where self-mutilation occurred with no prior history of infantile headbanging, it was observed that many of the children had been subjected to severe physical punishment at the hands of one or both parents during the first years of life. This physical abuse often persisted up to the child's admission to the center. It was hypothesized that the repeated painful stimulation during the physical abuse could have a traumatic effect on the developing ego similar to the self-inflicted painful stimulation of headbanging, leading to the development of self-mutilation. The importance of parental reinforcement

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