Psychological impacts of challenging behaviour and motivational orientation in staff supporting individuals with autistic spectrum conditions

Alistair D Merrick, Alan Grieve, Nicola Cogan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
145 Downloads (Pure)


Despite increased risk of experiencing challenging behaviour, psychological impacts on community and residential staff supporting adults with autistic spectrum conditions are under-explored. Studies examining related roles indicate protective psychological factors may help maintain staff well-being. This study investigated relationships between motivational orientation (eudaimonic or hedonic), challenging behaviour frequency and type (physical, verbal or self-injurious) and psychological impacts (anxiety, depression and life satisfaction). Participants (N = 99) were recruited from six organisations providing autism-specific adult services within Scotland. A series of binary logistic regressions demonstrated weekly challenging behaviour exposure (compared to monthly or daily) significantly increased the likelihood of anxiety caseness. Increased eudaimonic motivation significantly reduced the likelihood of anxiety caseness while also predicting higher life satisfaction. Furthermore, having high levels of eudaimonic motivation appeared to moderate the impact of weekly challenging behaviour exposure on anxiety. No motivational orientation or challenging behaviour factor significantly predicted depression. This sample also demonstrated higher anxiety, lower depression and equivalent life satisfaction levels compared with general population norms. The results highlight the need for considering staff’s motivational orientations, their frequency of exposure to challenging behaviour, and both positive and negative psychological outcomes, if seeking to accurately quantify or improve well-being in this staff population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)872-880
Number of pages9
Issue number7
Early online date26 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • anxiety
  • autism
  • autistic spectrum conditions
  • challenging behaviour
  • depression
  • eudaimonia
  • hedonia
  • life satisfaction
  • motivation
  • support workers


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