Study adds to evidence of direct link between challenging behaviour and staff burnout

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Challenging behaviour in people with learning disabilities often puts the safety of the person or others around them in jeopardy and can have an impact on the person’s quality of life.

The authors of this study set out to explore the relationship between the way in which staff perceive challenging behaviour and staff burnout. They point out that whilst some evidence exists of this relationship, a number of variables may act as mediators.

The researchers asked 78 staff in services for people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour to complete questionnaires which included measures of burnout, challenging behaviour and perceptions about such behaviour.

The questions explored beliefs about the timeline of behaviour, perceptions of whether staff had control over the behaviour, beliefs about clients’ ability to control behaviour and staff’s negative emotional responses.

They found positive correlations between challenging behaviour and burnout, challenging behaviour and cognitive variables, and cognitive variables and burnout. The analysis of the results showed negative emotions did in fact mediate the relationship between challenging behaviour and burnout.

The authors conclude that their findings add to the body of evidence suggesting a direct relationship between challenging behaviour and burnout in staff and that this is mediated by negative emotion: the fear of potential assault.

The relationship between challenging behaviour, burnout and cognitive variables in staff working with people who have intellectual disabilities, Mills, S. and Rose, J in Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 55: 844–857

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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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