Staff beliefs about the challenging behaviors of children and adults with mental retardation.
Clinical Psychology Review, 17, (7), . (doi:10.1016/S0272-7358(97)00050-0).
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From both theoretical and practical perspectives, staff beliefs are likely to have a significant impact on the process of care for children and adults with mental retardation who engage in challenging behaviors. This paper reviews research addressing three domains of staff beliefs: definitions of challenging behavior, causal attributions, and beliefs about appropriate intervention. In general, staff definitions were found to be at odds with formal definitions. According to care staff, challenging behaviors are actions that are difficult to manage. Staff causal attributions appear congruent with current theory, when measured with little specificity. However, when staff are asked to suggest causes of challenging behavior with clearly described functions they often fail to make appropriate attributions. Beliefs about appropriate short-term interventions suggest responses likely to develop and/or maintain challenging behavior, but beliefs about longer-term planned intervention appear to be more closely matched to contemporary practice. Reasons for this long-term/short-term distinction, based on the demands of the immediate situation, are proposed. Suggestions for future research on staff beliefs are discussed in detail. Finally, implications for staff training, referral practice, and for analysis and intervention with challenging behavior, are outlined.
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