Introduction In a typical society, disposition and behaviour of an individual plays a major role in determining his or her socialization and interaction with the larger society. Every society has evident norms and values that define how a person should behave in various social contexts…
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In cultural context, any behaviour that contradicts the established norms and values is considered as challenging (Wearmouth, et al 2004). This paper is critical examination of challenging behaviour and it comprises of two sections. The first section is a literature review examining the causes and responses to challenging behaviour. The second section is a critical assessment of the current policies for challenging behaviour with focus on the underlying theories. Challenging behaviour has various definitions and Boylan and Wallace (2009, p63) argue that it refers to “the conduct or manners that are abnormal in relation to the culture in which the person in question comes from”. Emerson (2001:p6) define challenging behaviour as “any recurring pattern of behaviour that interferes with optimal learning or engagement with prosocial interactions with peers or adults.” Similarly, Emerson (2001) defines challenging behaviour from cultural deviant perspective. According to Emerson (2001, p9), challenging behaviour is “a culturally deviant conduct with powerful intensity or frequency capable of disrupting the physical safety of the affected individual and or others”. Such behaviour could be so disruptive that it inhibits or denies the affected person from using or accessing the facilities and amenities provided for use in the community. Challenging behaviour manifests itself in various forms including unwarranted destructive conduct and high tendency to inflict self-injuries. In addition, individuals demonstrating the behaviour do not comply with the established rules and they show elevated stereotyped conduct. Moreover, people afflicted with the condition demonstrate bizarre sexual conduct and manner that are contradictory to normal and socially accepted behaviour. In summary, challenging behaviour is characterised by socially unacceptable conduct that includes inclination towards violence, destruction, and withdrawal from others (Ayers, Clarke, and Murray, 2000). Various theories have been used to explain the causes of challenging behaviour including behaviourist, psychodynamic, social learning theory among others. Behaviourist theoretical perspective holds that the behaviour demonstrated by an individual is a direct response to the applied stimuli (Clements and Martin 2002). Thus the theory emphasises on the critical role that external environment plays in reinforcing particular behaviour in people. In respect to challenging behaviour, behaviourists argue that it is a learned response arising from failure to meet the needs of the child. Therefore, children with unfulfilled necessities behave in a manner that elicits a response to meet the need. A person who needs stimulation and interaction with others but lack the necessary skills to initiate a relationship may find the attention that emanates from aggression and other behaviours that characterize challenging behaviour (Cromby and David, 1999). Thus, in behaviourist view, attention seeking and lack of appropriate interactive skills are main causes of challenging behaviour. Various factors could contribute to the exaggerated attention seeking behaviour, including assigning the child a complicated task that becomes challenging to manage, which could result to frustrations or boredom. Haynes (2005) argues that attention-seeking behaviour could also be learned through the various developmental stages of the child as a mechanism of obtaining what they
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