Recently I was speaking to a fellow teacher about a student’s behavior and I found myself pumping them for ABC data. It occurred to me that for many behavior analysts this is almost second nature, but for those without an ABA background the understanding of ABC might be incredibly valuable. So let’s throw it around.

ABC data involves directly observing a person’s behavior and noting the following:

A=Antecedent

B=Behavior

C=Consequence

ABC data recording is a direct continuous way to determine what is going on (and who is around) before the target behavior occurs, what exactly the behavior entails, and what happens after the behavior (This isn’t necessarily just positive or negative reinforcement, but how do those around react?  How does the individual react? How does the environment change?). ABC recording can also be referred to as anecdotal recording or observation.

What is truly important for practitioners, teachers, parents, or basically anyone with a behavior in their life (theirs or another’s) that they would like to see change is the utility of ABC data.  ABC data allows us to see possible triggers for a target behavior, when it occurs, why it occurs, what it looks like, who might be around when it happens and how everyone reacts. The beauty of ABC data is it often leads to the most parsimonious intervention. Many times a little environmental manipulation is all that is needed to get rid of an unwanted behavior. If your child screams when it’s time to brush their teeth maybe all you need to do is change the toothpaste :)

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