OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to apply Weiner's (1986) attributional model of helping to the care of clients presenting with challenging behaviour. A number of predictions were tested: (a) that aggressive, destructive, and self-injurious behaviours would differentially affect carers' ratings of attributional dimensions; (b) that carers' propensity to help would be mediated by positive affect rather than optimism; (c) that optimism would be reduced by a perceived stable cause, such as client's level of dependency.
DESIGN AND METHOD: The participants were 50 care staff working in challenging behaviour day services, who were presented with six case studies to rate. A two-factor repeated measures design was employed to examine the effects of challenging behaviour and dependency on carers' ratings of attributional dimensions, affects, optimism and helping. Correlational analysis was employed to examine the relative effects of positive affect, negative affect and optimism on carers' propensity to help.
RESULTS: All three predictions were confirmed. The more independent and outer directed the challenging behaviour, the greater the carers' attributions of control and negative affect, and the less the propensity to help. The more self-directed and dependent the client's challenging behaviour, the greater the carers' attribution of stability, positive affect and propensity to help.
CONCLUSIONS: The results are discussed in relation to the concept of helping and the experience of carers coping with challenging behaviours.