Best Practice

The underlying causes of challenging behaviour

Continuing her series for SecEd on supporting our most vulnerable young people, Clare Stafford seeks expert advice on supporting students who regularly demonstrate challenging behaviour

Behaviour that challenges in the classroom calls for a considered, consistent and whole-school approach. Professor Tamsin Ford is a child and adolescent psychiatrist who leads a research group at the University of Exeter Medical School.

Their work focuses on the effectiveness of services and interventions to support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, with a focus on mental health in schools. She gave me her insights into the origins of challenging behaviour and discussed effective strategies for offering support.

Opinion is divided on whether or not challenging behaviour constitutes a mental health problem.

Prof Ford explained: “That’s a really interesting question and we could talk for an hour about the philosophy of whether or not behaviour that challenges others should be conceptualised as a psychiatric problem.

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