BACKGROUND: Individuals with fragile X syndrome (FXS), especially men, have long been described as presenting with significant behavioural challenges. Despite this known aspect of the phenotype, there has been little research exploring the prevalence, frequency, nature or consequences of aggressive behaviour in FXS.
METHODS: This study used survey methodology to gather caregiver reports on the types, frequency and severity of aggressive behaviour in 774 individuals with FXS.
RESULTS: Based on caregiver report, nearly all (>90%) male and female individuals were reported to have engaged in some aggression over the previous 12 months, with a third of male cases and slightly fewer than 20% of female cases being described as engaging in moderate to severe aggression or being diagnosed or treated for aggression. Further, aggressive behaviours in male individuals were serious enough that 30% had caused injuries to caregivers and 22% had caused injuries to peers or friends. Sensory issues and hyperactivity were significant predictors of the frequency of aggressive acts, while sensory issues and anxiety were predictive of the severity of aggression. Traditional behaviour management techniques as well as medication was described as the most common and successful treatment options.
CONCLUSIONS: Aggressive behaviours are a significant concern for a subsample of both male and female individuals with FXS. Given that sensory concerns were predictive of both the frequency and the severity of aggression suggests these behaviours may be a reactive means of escaping uncomfortable situations.