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Title: An examination of the influence of behaviour topography and level of severity of learning disability on staff attributions and emotional responses towards challenging behaviour shown by adults with learning disabilities
Author: Walker, Brigid
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2003
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It has been long acknowledged that staff responses to challenging behaviour shown by people with learning disabilities often contributes to the long-term maintenance of the challenging behaviour. In recent years, in an attempt to understand staff responses to challenging behaviour, interest has been shown in the study of staffs' belief structures and attitudes towards challenging behaviour, the assumption being here that staffs' beliefs and attitudes towards challenging behaviour will influence staffs' behavioural responses to it. Much of this research has focused on staffs' causal attributions, their emotional responses to such behaviour and their views regarding appropriate interventions. Previous research has shown that these factors are influenced by a number of variables, such as experience in the job and topography of challenging behaviour. Knowledge of how different variables influence staff attributions is important as it may assist psychologist's and other professionals with the development of appropriate intervention packages for challenging behaviour that staff may be more able to implement. This study examined the influence of topography of challenging behaviour and level of severity of learning disability on staff attributions and emotional responses to challenging behaviour. As in previous research, differences were seen in staffs' causal attributions, emotional responses and selection of appropriate interventions for the different topographies of challenging behaviour. Self-injury was more likely to be viewed as physiological in nature than aggression or stereotypy, and staff were more likely to recommend medical interventions. Stereotypy was more likely than aggression or self-injury to be viewed as environmental or a means of self-stimulation, elicited less in the way of negative emotions in staff and staff were more likely to recommend distraction and structuring the person's day as appropriate interventions. Aggression was found to elicit more intense negative emotions in staff than self-injury or stereotypy. However, very little support was found for any of the hypotheses for the examination of level of severity of learning disability on staff attributions and emotional responses. For only self-injury was there any support for many of the hypotheses The results of this study are discussed in the light of a number of methodological problems that may influence the study's findings. This study also highlighted a number of implications for clinical practice. Although staff had a reasonable understanding of causality of challenging behaviour, it was unclear as to how they assigned causality in actual clinical practice, as relatively few staff recommended conducting a functional analysis. Their suggestions for appropriate interventions and emotional responses may also mitigate against effective long-term interventions for challenging behaviour. On the basis of the results of this study, recommendations for possible future areas of research were made.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available