Cognitive emotional analysis of support workers’ reaction to challenging behaviour in adults with learning disabilities
Williamson, Andrew Ian
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Previous research has explored the applicability of Weiner’s (1986) attributional model of helping behaviour to support workers of people with learning disabilities regarding challenging behaviour using optimism as a measure of the expectancy of success. No research has investigated the applicability of Weiner’s (1993) attributional model of helping behaviour to this group which gives a role to attributions of responsibility. Other research has found that self efficacy affects emotional response to challenging behaviour. The aim of the current research was to examine the relative applicability of these two theories to support workers regarding challenging behaviour using self efficacy as a measure of the expectancy of success. Method A total of 88 support workers completed measures addressing causal attributional dimensions, emotional reactions, attribution of responsibility, self efficacy and willingness to help in response to each of three vignettes regarding the challenging behaviours of aggression, self injury and destruction of property. Data was analysed using Spearman’s r correlations. Results None of the hypothesised significant correlations were found between measures of causal attributional dimensions and measures of responsibility or self efficacy. Attributing responsibility for the development of a challenging behaviour to the person engaging in it was significantly positively correlated with negative emotion. Self efficacy was significantly negatively correlated with negative emotion and significantly positively correlated with willingness to help. Emotional reaction was not significantly correlated with willingness to help. Conclusions The results provided little support for Weiner’s (1993) attributional theory of helping behaviour but provided more support for the expectancy of success aspect of Weiner’s (1986) theory and indicated that self efficacy is a useful measure of the expectancy of success. No firm conclusion could be drawn as to whether the failure to find significant correlations between causal attributions and other aspects of the theories was a genuine finding or due to the modified use of the Challenging Behaviour Attributions scale. It is concluded that a measure specifically designed for measuring causal attributional dimensions in this area is required. It is also concluded that low self efficacy may contribute to the development and maintenance of challenging behaviour via its impact on support workers’ intent to help. Efforts should therefore be made to raise support workers’ self efficacy by altering the perceived cause of challenging behaviour and highlighting to support workers the role of their level of effort, adherence to support plans and the role of any temporary external factors in the development and maintenance of challenging behaviour.