Exposure to challenging behaviour and staff psychological well-being: The importance of psychological flexibility and organisational support in special education settings

Andreas Paris, Corinna Grindle, Peter Baker, Freddy Jackson Brown, Bethany Green, Nuno Ferreira

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Background and aims: The present study examines the levels of psychological distress (anxiety, depression, stress) and burnout and their relationship to challenging behaviour, amongst staff working in a special education setting. It further examines the relationships between psychological distress and burnout and psychological flexibility, role clarity and workplace support. Methods and procedures: This was a cross-sectional survey of staff (N = 145) self-report data on exposure to challenging behaviour (CB), and contingent emotional reactions as well as psychological distress, burnout, perceived organisational support and psychological flexibility. Outcome and results: Results revealed high levels of psychological distress and burnout amongst special education staff, which correlated with lower levels of psychological flexibility, negative emotional reactions to CB, role-clarity, perceived organisational support and job satisfaction. Conclusions and implications: Results suggest that prevalence of psychological distress and burnout amongst staff in ID settings is high. Also that organisational and individual psychological factors have a role in this relationship. Results provide initial support for the need for psychological interventions for staff dealing with CB within a multi-tiered support model. Future research suggestions are provided, and clinical and organisational implications are discussed in terms of increasing staff well-being. What this paper adds: The paper primarily reveals high prevalence of psychological distress and burnout amongst ID staff in relation to their exposure to CB. The study also presents initial evidence that organisational and psychological factors (psychological flexibility) influence the latter relations and provides the basis for further research and exploration. Lastly, it highlights the need of proactive and reactive psychological interventions for staff dealing with CB within a multi-tiered support model and provides initial evidence for the potential employment of contextual behavioural science interventions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number104027
    JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
    Volume116
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021

    Keywords

    • Burnout
    • Challenging behaviour
    • Psychological distress
    • Psychological flexibility
    • Special education staff

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