The prevalence of challenging behaviors: A total population study

Eric Emerson, Chris Kiernan, Alison Alborz, David Reeves, Heidi Mason, Rebecca Swarbrick, Linda Mason, Chris Hatton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A total population study was undertaken in two areas of England to identify the situation and characteristics of people reported to exhibit challenging behaviors. We found that: (1) challenging behaviors are shown by 10-15% of people with mental retardation who are in contact with educational, health or social care services for people with mental retardation; (2) the most common forms of challenging behaviors reported were 'other' behavior (shown by 9%-12% of all people screened), aggression (7%), destructive behavior (4%-5%) and self-injury (4%); (3) the majority of people identified showed two or more of these four general forms of challenging behavior; (4) approximately two-thirds of the people identified were boys/men; (5) close to two-thirds of the people identified were adolescents or young adults; (6) approximately 50% of the people identified as showing more demanding challenging behavior were living with their families; (7) people who showed more demanding challenging behavior were more likely to need greater levels of assistance in eating, dressing and washing, be incontinent and have more restricted expressive and receptive communication. Copyright © 2001 Elsevier Science Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-93
Number of pages16
JournalResearch in developmental disabilities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Great Britain
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • epidemiology: Mental Disorders
  • epidemiology: Mental Retardation
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance


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