Applying Restrictive Measures in the Care of Adolescents With Mild Intellectual Disabilities: Attitudes of Support Staff and Policy Implications

Vivianne E.T. Dörenberg, Anke J.E. de Veer, Anneke L. Francke, Petri J.C.M. Embregts, Maroesjka van Nieuwenhuijzen, Brenda J.M. Frederiks

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Research suggests that restrictive measures are widely used on adolescents with mild intellectual disabilities. In the Netherlands, restrictive measures are defined as all measures that limit the freedom of a person. In most countries, legislation and policies that seek to reduce the use of restrictive measures focus on seclusion and mechanical and physical restraints. The study aimed to investigate the extent to which restrictive practices are used in the care of adolescents with mild intellectual disabilities while also exploring the attitudes of support staff toward these interventions. A survey study was done among a nationally representative Dutch research sample consisting of support staff. A structured questionnaire was completed by 195 staff members (response of 68.7%) working in settings providing care for people with intellectual disabilities. The measures generally used by staff members who work with adolescents with mild intellectual disabilities involved restricting the freedom of movement and so-called social restrictions (such as limiting the use of mobile phones). Nearly all respondents considered restrictive measures to be justified in the case of danger, physical aggression, or sexually abusive behavior (87.8–96.8%). Frequently mentioned reasons for using restrictive measures were averting or avoiding danger (90.4 and 83.0%, respectively) and calming the adolescent (63.8%). Although seclusion and mechanical and physical restraints were generally considered most intrusive, staff members were aware that social restrictions could also be instrusive. The fact that current policies do not address these measures makes support staff question the lawfulness of their actions. As well as staff training to reduce the use of restrictive measures, rules, and legislation are also needed to clarify the options and limits to using such measures in the professional care of adolescents with mild intellectual disabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-35
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • adolescents
  • mild intellectual disabilities
  • policy implications
  • restrictive measures
  • staff perceptions

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