Leadership of Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) in Australian disability services: A social network analysis and validation

Mr Brent Hayward1

1Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

Positive behaviour support has become synonymous with the provision of disability services internationally and in Australia. The positioning of positive behaviour support in the National Disability Insurance Scheme has propelled positive behaviour support forward with little consideration of the systems required for its promotion and application to achieve meaningful outcomes for people with intellectual disability.

A social network analysis was conducted to identify persons involved in the promotion and use of positive behaviour support in an Australian state. Opinion leaders (those that are sought for advice) and boundary spanners (those that link persons and groups) were identified using quantitative sociometric methods. Self-reported variables relating to positive behaviour support leadership, knowledge and attitudes were statistically analysed to validate opinion leadership and boundary spanning functions in the network.

Nineteen persons were identified in the network as opinion leaders or boundary spanners. Overall, self-reported positive behaviour support leadership, seeking and attitudes were consistent with these network roles. Self-reported positive behaviour support knowledge by opinion leaders showed a statistically significant difference compared to non-opinion leaders. However, neither opinion leaders nor boundary spanners met criteria for these roles.

Boundary spanners are effectively bridging the positive behaviour support network, yet persons seeking information about positive behaviour support are doing so from opinion leaders that do not display all the requisite characteristics for this role. These results are argued to be a consequence of the way positive behaviour support is promoted in the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Implications for the utility of positive behaviour support within the National Disability Insurance Scheme are discussed.


Brent originally trained as a nurse and worked in a variety of government and non-government services supporting people with disability. He is an ardent yet critical proponent of positive behaviour support (PBS) and is close to submitting his PhD thesis. This presentation shares some of the results of his research.