Understanding and Supporting Behaviour Graham Rodger 14.09.18
Challenging behaviour is behaviour that puts individuals and/or others at risk of injury or is detrimental to the ordinary day to day living of what is seen as normal life.
Challenging behaviour describes behaviour that is challenging to parents, carers, teachers, peers and others. This can include all kinds of behaviour including tantrums, aggression, vandalism, disruptiveness, self harming and possibly sexualised behaviour.
Challenging behaviours can be energy draining for individuals.
There are most often reasons for challenging behaviour. Often it is a way for individuals to control what is happening in their lives and control what it happening around them or simply boredom. All behaviours are a form of communication and not always seen as challenging but as a way of expressing oneself to attain a certain outcome.
Challenging behaviour can be defined as culturally abnormal behaviours of such intensity, frequency or duration that the physical safety of the person or others is placed in serious jeopardy, or behaviour which is likely to seriously limit or deny access to the use of ordinary community facilities.
I will break down the following behaviours that may occur within a social care setting and try to explain the reasons they may occur and why they might be perceived as challenging behaviour.
1. Attention seeking.
Often an individual will present bahaviours merely to get attention from a care giver, teacher or peer. This behaviour has worked for them in the past to attain attention and they simply repeat the behaviour that worked for them last time. They may not be emotional at all but give the impression that they are to the care giver.
Often young people don’t care if the attention they receive is positive or negative, it is still attention.
This is often a way for an individual to express that they do not want to be here, i.e. In a classroom or at an event etc. Disruption in a classroom might end in them being sent home from school or at an event they might prefer to be at home or to be doing something completely different.
3. Aggression. Aggression is often the way an individual has gotten results in the past and they can use it to do so again. This behaviour is often the reason they are now in care as their primary carers could no longer cope with them at home.
Sometimes an individual just wants to be top dog within a residential care settings among his peers and is simply flexing his muscles in his own eyes. Often young people think other peers will look up to them if they display these behaviours. It may also be that the young person has experienced violence in his past and that they feel that this is nowmal.
A young person may harm themselves with sharp objects or burn themselves with a cigarette etc. This is often a way they express themselves when they find it difficult to communicate their anxieties and emotions or have painful memories or experience overwhelming situations.. Self harming is complex to understand.
Some individuals have described self harming as a way to describe something that is hard to put into words, to turn invisible thoughts into something visible, change emotional pain to physical pain, to have a sense of control or a way to express suicidal feelings.
Self harming can provide a short term sense of release for the individual.
Often it takes a long time for the individual to refrain from self harming.
There are a few theories of note relating to behaviours of individuals.
The Cognitive perspective This perspective suggests that individual cognitive processes, such as reasoning, understanding and interpretation of events influence behaviour most. The cognitive approach goes some way to addressing the question ‘Why does the same stimulus produces different responses in different people?’
The main cognitive influences on behaviour are considered to be pupils’: View of themselves Understanding of their behaviour and how this affects other people Views of who is responsible for the behaviour Goals – what are they trying to achieve?
A cognitive approach maintains that problem behaviour may develop when pupils misperceive and misconstrue a situation, so that they respond in a way that seems appropriate and rational to them, but inappropriate to other people who see the situation differently. Behaviour can be changed if attitudes, expectations and beliefs are understood and adapted.
A cognitive perspective differs from a psychodynamic perspective, because it does not refer to unconscious processes; rather it refers to conscious awareness and thinking and reasoning about the current situation. It is also unlike a behavioural perspective in that it refers to non-observable cognitive events which cannot easily be measured.
Cognitive assessment in schools is likely to be through the use of self-monitoring logs and self-reports or interviews so that pupils can describe the thoughts that are associated with a particular behaviour The aim is to understand behaviours from the pupils’ point of view.
The aim of cognitive interventions in school is to clarify and challenge misperceptions, attributions and attitudes and to give pupils some control of their behaviour. For example an intervention such as an Anger Management programme aims to give the pupil more control over his behaviour by helping him to understand the triggers which lead to angry outbursts and to recognise alternative responses which are more socially acceptable6.
Much of the work on teaching Emotional Literacy in schools is aimed at pupils developing a better understanding of their own behaviour and how it affects others.
The Humanist perspective This developed from the work of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers7. In 1957 and 1958, at the invitation of Maslow and Rogers, two meetings were held in Detroit 6 See Unit 13: Understanding and Managing Anger 7 Rogers, C. (1974) On becoming a person, London: Constable.
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among psychologists, who were interested in founding a professional association dedicated to a more humanistic vision. Maslow and his colleagues came to refer to their movement as ‘third force psychology’, the first two forces being psychoanalysis and behaviourism. The third force is based on philosophies of existentialism and humanism
Behaviourists recognise only one motivation for behaviour (i.e. to maximise those experiences that result in positive reinforcement). ‘Humanists’, however, take into account other very important drivers, which they consider to be essential for human development. These are the need: To belong to a social group To think well of oneself For personal growth.
In his diagrammatic pyramid of the hierarchy of human needs (below), Abraham Maslow places the most basic needs – physiological needs such as hunger and thirst and safety needs – at the bottom of the pyramid. Next come the need to belong and the need to think well of oneself. At the top is self-actualisation, which is interpreted as the need to fulfil oneself (i.e. to become all that one is capable of becoming).
From Maslow’s perspective, the drive to learn is intrinsic and the purpose of learning is to bring about self-actualisation. An individual is ready to act in relation to a level of need only when the previous levels of need have been met. For many pupils, especially those with BESD, the need to belong to a group and the need to think well of oneself are needs that may not have been met at home or in their school careers. According to Maslow, therefore, for these pupils, the drive to self-actualisation is unlikely to be recognised.
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Humanist interventions in schools focus on addressing the hierarchy of need and developing self-esteem and a sense of belonging. Interventions, such as counselling, involve working with pupils to help them learn alternative ways of perceiving and interpreting themselves and their world which will enable them to be less dependent on those around them for a sense of worth and consequently more resilient to troubling factors in their lives.
“We should recognise that the misbehaving child is only trying to find his place: he is acting on the faulty logic that his behaviour will give him the social acceptance he desires”8.
The Ecosystemic perspective This perspective is based on the idea of an ecosystem, in which even quite small changes in any part of the ecosystem, will bring about related changes elsewhere. The theoretical origins of the Ecosystemic perspective of human behaviour rest in the work of Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1968)9. Molnar and Lindquist (1989)10 have applied the model to schools and classrooms.
An ecosystemic approach offers new ways of conceptualising behavioural problems in schools and is based on the view that human behaviour is developed and maintained through interactional processes.
Key features of the ecosystemic approach to behaviour are that: problem behaviour does not originate from within the individual, who displays it, but is a product of social interaction the cause of any instance of problem behaviour is part of a cyclical chain of actions and reactions between participants.
Behaviour problems are, thus, the product of interactions between teachers, pupils and families or between pupils themselves, and these interactions occur in certain contexts. Teachers, pupils and families can become locked into a pattern of negative circular interaction leading to deteriorating behaviour. Behavioural change can, therefore, occur only through focusing on the context as well as the individuals.
Ecosystemic assessment requires teachers to examine their interpretations of their interactions with pupils, other teachers and parents. The focus is on interpretation
and attribution at a particular time and in a particular context (e.g. in a peer group, in the classroom, in the playground or at home).
8 Dreikurs, R. et al.1998. Maintaining Sanity in the (Classroom (2nd ed.) Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis 9 Bertalanffy, L.von (1968) General Systems Theory: Foundation, Development, Applications. New York: Braziller 10 Molnar, A. & Lindquist, B. (1989) Changing problem behaviour in schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
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Ecosystemic interventions in school focus on the idea that there are different, equally valid, interpretations of the same behaviour or situation. Teachers and pupils need to look for a positive interpretation in order to ‘reframe’ the behaviour and so break out of the negative cyclical chain of actions and reactions between participants. The aim of ‘reframing’ is for both teacher and pupils to view the problem behaviour in a new and more positive light. This might involve describing the behaviour in neutral and observable terms, identifying positive contributions that the pupil makes and creating a new positive perspective which the pupil can act on.
See online resource: www.education.gov.uk/lamb/besd/psychological-perspective/perspectives
Psychological perspectives in schools Frederickson and Cline11 report the percentages of each type of strategy recommended by educational psychologies in one local authority in one school term: Behavioural strategies were most frequently used The use of behavioural strategies was reported about three times more often in primary than secondary schools Counselling and other cognitive interventions were more frequently implemented in secondary schools than in primary.
See online resource: www.education.gov.uk/lamb/besd/psychological-perspective/perspectives-schoolsdata