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Prevalence and Cluster Typology of Maladaptive Behaviours in a Geographically Defined Population of Adults with Learning Disabilities

  • Susan Smith (a1), David Branford (a1), Richard A. Collacott (a2), Sally-Ann Cooper (a3) and Catherine McGrother (a4)...



Maladaptive behaviours are frequently present in individuals with learning disabilities; however, their prevalence varies between studies and the aetiology, classification and most appropriate management of such behaviours remain unclear. The aims of the study were twofold: firstly to determine the prevalence of maladaptive behaviours, and secondly to develop a classification typology.


A population of 2202 adults with learning disabilities was surveyed to determine the prevalence of maladaptive behaviours. These were subjected on the basis of 13 behavioural characteristics to cluster analysis. The clusters were further examined in respect of secondary variables.


Over 60% of individuals demonstrated the presence of at least one maladaptive behaviour and in 40% this problem was of either severe degree or frequent occurrence. Men were more likely to demonstrate physical aggression, property destruction, tantrums and verbal abuse than women. Although some severe maladaptive behaviours diminished with age, many persisted through all age groups. Six behavioural clusters were devised which demonstrated face validity and which differed in respect of demographic and developmental variables, and the prevalence of maladaptive habits and autistic symptoms.


These findings demonstrate a high prevalence of maladaptive behaviours and ‘objectionable habits’ among people with learning disabilities. A classification of behavioural symptoms may be possible on the basis of symptom clusters.


Corresponding author

Dr R. A. Collacott, Department of Psychiatry, University of Leicester, Frith Hospital, Groby Road, Leicester LE3 9QF


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Prevalence and Cluster Typology of Maladaptive Behaviours in a Geographically Defined Population of Adults with Learning Disabilities

  • Susan Smith (a1), David Branford (a1), Richard A. Collacott (a2), Sally-Ann Cooper (a3) and Catherine McGrother (a4)...
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