In the Read

Effective behaviour support

Adolescence is a period in which healthy transition to independence takes place, but can also be a period that poses challenges for families, caregivers and young people themselves. In this week’s In the Read we take a look at three resources that consider the topic of behaviour support and best practice for assisting young people with challenging and problematic behaviours.

This Australian Family Relationships Clearinghouse briefing explores what works in terms of adolescent-family connectedness to support young people. The briefing identifies protective factors such as a secure base, caring, communication, connectedness, permanence, belonging, as well as parental monitoring and boundary setting, that are linked to positive outcomes for young people, including maintaining close bonds with caregivers into adulthood. Parents and carers often minimise or underestimate the level of support they provide to young people as they grow, but young people highly value this interaction and continue to desire it. The briefing notes contact with family can assist young people in out-of-home care transition successfully and considers the effectiveness of family-based interventions, finding strong evidence in reducing time spent in institutions by young people who have offended, as well as in addressing substance use.

practice guide developed by the University of New South Wales explores how to reduce challenging behaviour in young people aged 9 to 18 years with disability and complex needs. Challenging behaviour that is persistent, inappropriate to the context, and has a negative influence on quality of life, can pose a barrier to academic, social, and emotional success for young people at this crucial time of fostering independence, and for young people with disability and complex needs, extra support may be required to develop the social, emotional and behavioural skills required for successfully navigating future life stages. The guide identifies Positive Behaviour Support (PBS), which focuses on understanding the purpose of the behaviour and replacing it through adaptive alternatives by teaching new skills in a positive way, as the most effective approach to supporting young people. The PBS process also centralises the role of family and caregivers in developing therapies that adequately respond to children and young people’s needs.

The research report into therapeutic treatment of children with problem and harmful sexual behaviours commissioned by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse similarly surveys the evidence on best practice for treating children with problem sexual behaviour (aged under 10), and harmful sexual behaviour and children who have sexually offended (aged 10 to 17). Though the evidence base is scant especially for children outside the youth justice system, the report recommends treatment that is therapeutic rather than punitive. In particular, the report recommends Multisystemic Therapy (MST), which has an ‘ecological’ approach that is caregiver mediated.

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