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Exploring boundary attitude

Peter Bates (Based at the National Development Team for Inclusion, Bath, UK)
Mark Lymbery (Based at the University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)
Eric Emerson (Based at Lancaster University, Preston, UK.)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 8 February 2013




There have been increased concerns about disciplinary procedures in relation to adult safeguarding. The purpose of this paper is to argue that the personal “boundary attitude” of workers is a strong component of their response to issues that have a safeguarding dimension.


This study reports an analysis of questionnaire responses and data generated from interactive training events.


The data suggest most workers adopt a personal stance or “boundary attitude” that drives their response to many of the diverse circumstances they face at the interface of their professional and personal life.

Research limitations/implications

The particular profession, stage in career development or work environment may affect staff responses and this needs further exploration.

Practical implications

There are implications for how services identify the most effective workers and their least effective colleagues, as well as for staff selection and training. Improving our understanding of boundary attitude will help to protect vulnerable people from abuse whilst supporting them to have a full life.

Social implications

A better understanding of whether staff who maintain rigid boundaries deliver better outcomes than their colleagues who exercise substantial flexibility will help in recruitment, supervision and safeguarding activities.


The paper explores an under‐recognised issue in adult safeguarding, the personal “boundary attitudes” of staff, and their impact on judgements that affect a range of professional decisions they take.



Bates, P., Lymbery, M. and Emerson, E. (2013), "Exploring boundary attitude", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 26-36.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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