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What are the ABC’s of Behavior?

The ABC’s of behavior is a model of behavior modification that is often used in educational and therapeutic settings with both children and adults. It stands for the Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence model of behavior, and it is implemented to direct or change specific behaviors by noting what triggers the behavior and the results of the behavior. Keep reading to discover more about this approach, how it works and why practitioners have embraced it.

About the ABC’s of Behavior

The ABC model is used to understand and modify particular behaviors, which then allows them to be addressed and changed. Let’s break down each piece of this approach. The antecedent refers to what happens to provoke or cause the behavior in question. The antecedent could be any number of things, from a particular event to an interaction with another party. Antecedents can be both negative and positive. A negative trigger leads to an unwanted behavior occurring, while a positive one can influence desired actions. The behavior of interest or target behavior is what is being analyzed in each scenario. As with the antecedent, the behavior in question can be either positive or negative. The consequence is what happens because of the behavior being analyzed. Consequences can be used to either encourage or extinguish the behavior, depending on whether that behavior is desired or unwanted.

How It Works

Psychology Today shares how ABC analysis gives practitioners, teachers or therapists a great deal of insight into the behavior and helps to provide the needed information regarding how to manage that behavior. By observing each part of the model, professionals are able to gain the data necessary to do a functional assessment of a client’s situation. When they have this pertinent data, they can then determine the cause or trigger of the behavior and what to do to increase or decrease it. It’s relatively easy to collect this data simply by writing down in detail what occurs prior to a behavior, then describing the behavior itself and finally noting in detail what happens afterward. These steps to collect data should be taken each time the behavior occurs in order to look for patterns and to know whether actions to change the behavior are working.

Benefits of the ABC Model

The main advantage of the ABC model of behavior is that it is so easy to record. While the method may be straightforward and simple, its implications are vast. Another benefit to this approach is that it is easily translatable to those outside of the original scenario. Professionals can share observations about a client’s behavior in a way that is understood even by those who weren’t present during the original interaction. Those people can then use the information gleaned to replicate the results of the ABC data tracking and behavior plan created with that information.

When behavior change is desired, this approach is an effective method to use. The ABC’s of behavior have been used successfully by teachers, counselors, therapists and other helping professionals to direct and modify both positive and negative behaviors in a variety of settings.