Review of 173 studies identifies common functions of challenging behaviour.


This literature review looked at the evidence for environmental causes for challenging behaviours, looking at 173 empirical studies where functional assessment served as the primary method of identifying causes of challenging behaviour. Most studies identified a clear function or functions, most commonly attention, efforts to acquire tangibles, negative reinforcement in the form of escape and sensory stimulation.

Examples are provided regarding how these conditions are investigated across studies. Biological and cognitive causes have also been demonstrated. The authors suggest the empirical literature is currently limited by the fact that most studies have been correlational.

What is the evidence for environmental causes of challenging behaviors in persons with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorders? Matson J et al, in Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32, 2, 693-698.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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