What is the ABC Model of Behavior?

Learn all about the ABC Model of Behavior and access brilliant teacher-made resources to support you in understanding your pupils’ behavior.

The ABC model of behavior is an approach to tracking and understanding the behavior of children in the classroom. By tracking antecedents (A), behaviors (B), and consequences (C), the ABC model of behavior can be used by teachers to improve their understanding of what triggers certain behaviors and to develop effective responses and support plans.

The Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC) Model of behavior helps to study behaviors that may present as challenging. This approach can assist teachers, carers, and parents in understanding what children are trying to express, such as tiredness or frustration, and assess whether strategies, such as the use of a calm corner or provision of sensory items, are proving effective.

What is an Antecedent?

An antecedent is something that logically precedes something else. In the ABC model of behavior, an antecedent refers to any event or situation that might have triggered a behavior.

Antecedents might include any number of things. For example, an antecedent could be tiredness or hunger. It could also be something less obvious such as a triggering situation. This could be when a child is given a difficult task to complete, causing them stress.

When reviewing your observations using the ABC model, the antecedent may be something that you want to change if it may result in different behavior. Sometimes antecedents cannot be manipulated. They can include low energy levels related to the time of day or certain weather conditions.

What is a Behavior?

Behavior in this context is usually something that causes concern. It may be something that is causing harm to the child themself or others or preventing learning from taking place. Pay attention to how long this behavior lasts and how regularly it happens.

On the other hand, as part of your behavior management, you will also be recording behavior that is not problematic in your classroom. For example, if you have changed an antecedent or a consequence, then the resulting behavior of your child may change.

What is a Consequence?

The “C” in the ABC model of behavior refers to the consequences that follow the behavior that’s being tracked. It’s not necessarily negative. It’s really just the outcome of the behavior.

The consequence might be something that someone does in response to the behavior, or it may be the child escaping from a situation. An example of a consequence might be that after refusing to follow instructions from a teacher, a child continues to play with a toy.

The consequence is important to observe, to see whether it has been effective in reducing the concerning behavior.

Why do people use the ABC Model of Behavior?

The ABC model is a useful way of generating a pattern of the behavior that your children are displaying. It’s a simple way to track behaviors that may be confusing. For instance, it puts events in the context of what happened before and what happened after. This data can be used to infer certain triggers or motivations.

How do you collect data using the ABC Model of Behavior?

Creating a pattern using the ABC model simply requires recording multiple instances of behavior over time. Using a chart or table, you can track the date at which something took place and describe in separate columns the antecedent (A), the behavior (B), and the consequence (C). Try to be as specific as possible when you record these details.

Whenever the behavior you’re interested in takes place, write it down. The more data you have, the stronger your notes will be, and the better your analysis will be as well.

When you’re confident that you have observed a pattern of behavior and you are confident that you understand the functions of the behavior, then you can stop collecting data. More complex behavior entails observation over a greater period of time. A professional is more suitable to assess behavior that is too complicated for you to assess on your own


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