Objectives Approximately 10% of people with intellectual disability display aggressive challenging behaviour, usually due to unmet needs. There are a variety of interventions available, yet a scarcity of understanding about what mechanisms contribute to successful interventions. We explored how complex interventions for aggressive challenging behaviour work in practice and what works for whom by developing programme theories through contexts-mechanism-outcome configurations. Methods This review followed modified rapid realist review methodology and RAMESES-II standards. Eligible papers reported on a range of population groups (intellectual disability, mental health, dementia, young people and adults) and settings (community and inpatient) to broaden the scope and available data for review. Results Five databases and grey literature were searched and a total of 59 studies were included. We developed three overarching domains comprising of 11 contexts-mechanism-outcome configurations; 1. Working with the person displaying aggressive challenging behaviour, 2. Relationships and team focused approaches and 3. Sustaining and embedding facilitating factors at team and systems levels.
interventions included improving understanding, addressing unmet need, developing positive skills, enhancing carer compassion, and boosting staff self-efficacy and motivation. Conclusion The review emphasises how interventions for aggressive challenging behaviour should be personalised and tailored to suit individual needs. Effective communication and trusting relationships between service users, carers, professionals, and within staff teams is essential to facilitate effective intervention delivery. Carer inclusion and service level buy-in supports the attainment of desired outcomes. Implications for policy, clinical practice and future directions are discussed.