While the origins and developmental course of self-injurious behavior (SIB) remain relatively unknown, recent studies suggest a biological imbalance may potentiate or provoke the contagious recurrence of SIB patterns in individuals with severe developmental disabilities (DID). Evidence from several laboratories indicates that functioning, relations, and processing of a stress-related molecule, proopiomelanocortin (POMC) may be perturbed among certain subgroups of individuals exhibiting SIB. The current investigation employed a unique time-pattern analysis program (THEME) to examine whether recurrent temporal patterns (T-patterns) of SIB were related to morning levels of two POMC-derived hormones: beta-endorphin (beta E) and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). THEME was used to quantify highly significant (non-random) T-patterns that included SIB within a dataset of in situ observational recordings spanning 8 days (similar to 40 h) in 25 subjects with DD. Pearson's product-moment analyses revealed highly significant correlations between the percentage of T-patterns containing SIB and basal levels of both beta E and ACTH, which were not found with any other "control" T-patterns. These findings support the hypothesis that the recurrent temporal patterning of SIB represents a unique behavioral phenotype directly related to perturbed levels of POMC-derived stress hormones in certain individuals with severe DD. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.