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Do individuals intend to cause harm when they show aggressive behaviour?

Many parents and carers will report that aggressive behaviour is not malicious in any way and the individual has no intention to harm anyone else. Although, as researchers, we will often use the terms ‘aggression’ and ‘aggressive behaviour’ we do not mean that the person has any intent to harm anyone else- we simply use these terms to describe any behaviour that has the potential to hurt or injure others. 

The Lowe Syndrome Association (LSA) reported that 5-6 out of 10 individuals with Lowe syndrome displayed one of the following physically or verbally aggressive behaviours:

Hits, scratches or bites others

Verbally threatens others with harm or misfortune

Makes threatening gestures

Intentionally throws objects at others

Uses profane language on a regular basis

Teases, bosses or bullies others

However, the majority (9 out of 10) of the individuals with Lowe syndrome who did show aggressive behaviours displayed hitting, scratching or biting of others, and few of the other behaviours listed. 

Self-injurious and aggressive behaviours can often be reduced, either by anticipating the needs of the child or specific triggers that result in self-injury, or by redirecting the behaviour into an activity that does not cause self-injury- to read more about methods of reducing this behaviour, see Interventions.

It has been suggested that hyperactivity and impulsivity are linked to aggressive behaviours in individuals with intellectual disability. There is a correlation between high hyperactivity/impulsivity scores and increased chance of displaying aggressive behaviours, suggesting that they could both be linked to a reduced ability to control behaviour. It is also possible that sensory defensiveness in Lowe syndrome, and the subsequent need to escape from a sensory experience, contributes to aggressive behaviours.


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