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A conceptual framework for understanding why challenging behaviours occur in people with developmental disabilities

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Background: To be able to define positive behavioural support (PBS), describe PBS interventions and clarify the individual and organisational competencies needed to support PBS, a clear underlying conceptual framework is needed to identify why challenging behaviours occur.

Method and materials: Non-systematic review and discussion of the state of research and theoretical evidence focusing on vulnerability factors for challenging behaviours, maintaining processes, and the social impact of challenging behaviour.

Results: Understanding challenging behaviour is related most strongly to context. First, challenging behaviours are defined in terms of their social effects. Second, vulnerability factors for challenging behaviour include some biological factors, but mainly psycho-social risks relating to the life situation and inequalities experienced by people with developmental disabilities. Third, social contextual processes are primarily responsible for maintaining challenging behaviours.

Conclusions: PBS is a broad approach to understanding and intervention referring to multiple contributing factors and processes. To describe PBS without reference to an underlying theoretically grounded conceptual framework would lead to an impoverished version of the approach.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2013

More about this publication?
  • Positive behavioural support (PBS) combines the conceptual framework of applied behaviour analysis with the values base of social role valorisation and framework of person-centred approaches. The International Journal of Positive Behavioural Support is a peer-reviewed publication that aims to:

    · define and promote good practice in relation to the use of PBS

    · add to the evidence base regarding such interventions

    · demonstrate how PBS interventions can support people to change their challenging behaviours, improve their quality of life, and result in reductions in the use of restrictive procedures (such as physical intervention, seclusion and as required medication)

    · bridge the gap between academic research and service practice
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