A survey of functional behavior assessment methods used by behavior analysts in practice

Document Type

Conference Presentation



Conference Title

Annual Meeting of the California Association for Behavior Analysis


California Association for Behavior Analysis


San Diego, CA

Date of Presentation



The term functional behavior assessment (FBA) refers to a range of strategies used to identify environmental variables that are functionally related to a behavior of interest. The FBA methods used in practice can vary considerably; however, the research literature suggests that the various assessment strategies are not all equally effective in terms of identifying functional relations. To get information about the FBA methods used by behavior analysts in practice, we sent a web-based survey to 12,431 behavior analysts certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Ultimately, 682 practitioner surveys were completed, with the results suggesting that most respondents regularly use FBA methods, especially descriptive assessments. Less than half of the respondents reported using functional analyses, although many considered descriptive assessments and functional analyses to be the most useful FBA methods. Still, most respondents reported using informant and descriptive assessments more frequently than functional analyses, and a majority of respondents indicated that they “Never” or “Almost Never” used functional analyses to determine the function of behavior. This might be cause for concern, given the research demonstrating the unreliability of informant FBA methods and the lack of correspondence between informant and descriptive assessments and the outcomes of functional analyses.

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