Behaviour difficulties in children with special education needs and disabilities: assessing risk, promotive and protective factors at individual and school levels
Full recordShow full item record
AbstractBehaviour difficulties displayed in childhood and adolescence have pervasive and long term effects into adulthood and across various domains of functioning (Healey, et al. 2004, Woodward, et al. 2002). The numbers of children who suffer with them remain worryingly high (Green et al. 2005). Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are considered particularly at risk of displaying behaviour difficulties; however, despite representing around one fifth of the school population (DfE 2011), little research to date has explicitly investigated these problems in this population. The present study therefore aimed to investigate risk, promotive and protective factors for behaviour difficulties in children with SEND across multiple ecological levels. Data were collected through a concurrent research project evaluating Achievement for All (Humphrey et al. 2011). The sample comprised children identified with SEND in years 1, 5, 7 and 10, from ten local authorities deemed representative of England. A final sample consisted of 2660 primary pupils nested in 248 primary schools and 1628 secondary pupils nested within 57 secondary schools. Predictor variables were measured at the individual and school levels at baseline, along with a teacher reported measure of behaviour difficulties which was assessed again eighteen months later. Analyses were carried out using multi-level modelling revealing that primary schools accounted for 15% and secondary schools 13% of the total variance in behaviour difficulties, with the remainder being at the individual level. Significant risk factors for these problems across both school types were: being male; eligibility for FSM; and being a bully. Risk factors specific to primary schools included being autumn born, being older in the school, having poor positive relationships, and attending schools with lower levels of academic achievement. Risk factors specific to secondary schools included being younger in the school, having poor attendance, having poor academic achievement, being a bystander to bullying and attending a larger school. Results showed evidence for a cumulative risk effect that increasing numbers of contextual risk factors, regardless of their exact nature, resulted in heightened behaviour difficulties. This relationship was non-linear with increasing risk factors in an individual’s background having a disproportional and detrimental increase in behaviour difficulties displayed. The specific type of risk was however, more important than number of risk factors present in an individual’s background in accounting for behaviour difficulties displayed. Finally, results revealed significant protective factors at the school level; specifically attending primary schools with high academic achievement and with more children on the SEND register at school action can protect against the display of behaviour difficulties when these children are at risk in terms of having poor positive relationships. Attending urban secondary schools can also protect against the display of behaviour difficulties, when these children are at risk in terms of having poor academic achievement. The implications of these findings are discussed along with directions for future research.
TypeDoctoral level ETD - final