Behaviours of Concern, Measuring Frequency, Duration and Intensity

A step by step guide to measuring the frequency, duration and intensity when you are identifying behaviours of concern.

Learning to measure the frequency, duration and intensity of behaviours of concern.

The three key measures 'frequency', 'intensity' and 'duration' of behaviours of concern are used to help us decide when a behaviour we are concerned about stops being a 'one off' and starts being something we want to address.

Everyone exhibits behaviours of concern from time to time but it is usually mild or an isolated 'outburst'.  This behaviour really becomes much more of a concern when it is happening regularly or more often (frequency), is becoming more extreme (intensity) or is lasting for a long time (duration).

In this guide to measuring the frequency, duration and intensity of behaviours of concern we will explain in more detail, give examples and practical advice too. These measures are used to assess behaviours of concern at home, in education and clinical settings.



If the behaviour occurs frequently and persists over an extended period. For example, ‘Alex’ head bangs more than 2-3 times per hour.

When assessing behaviours of concern, 'frequency' refers to how often the behaviour occurs within a given time frame. This measure helps us understand whether a behaviour is an isolated incident or part of a recurring pattern. In determining the frequency, we look at both the number of occurrences and the time span over which these behaviours are observed.

The significance of frequency can vary based on the context and the individual. For some behaviours, even a relatively low frequency might be concerning if it leads to significant consequences. In contrast, other behaviours might become concerning only when they occur at a very high frequency.

In practice, tracking frequency involves observing and recording the behaviour over time. This data provides a clearer picture and helps in making informed decisions about interventions. For instance, if a behaviour's frequency is increasing, it may indicate escalating stress or an unmet need in the individual's environment. Conversely, a decrease in frequency, especially following interventions, can be a sign of progress.



When the severity of the behaviour is excessive and / or disproportionate to the situation it is considered concerning.

For example, ‘Luke’ has been causing a lot of destruction to property at school, smashing windows and damaging computer equipment in an intensely aggressive way as if he is in a rage to what may appear to others as minor triggers.

'Intensity' in the realm of behaviour analysis refers to the severity or forcefulness of a behaviour. It's about gauging how extreme the behaviour is and whether it's disproportionate to the situation at hand. Intensity becomes a focal point when trying to understand if a behaviour is just a mild reaction or something more alarming.

Consider the case of 'Luke', whose actions at school include smashing windows and damaging computer equipment. The intensity here is not just in the physical actions, but also in the emotional force behind them. Luke's behaviours are described as intensely aggressive, almost as if he is in a rage. This intensity is concerning, particularly as it seems to be triggered by what others might perceive as minor provocations.

The assessment of intensity is not solely about the physical manifestation of a behaviour but also about the emotional and psychological underpinnings. In Luke's case, the extreme nature of his actions, especially when compared to the triggers, suggests a disproportionality that is often a key indicator of concern.

Understanding intensity involves looking at the behaviour's impact on the environment and the individual. In Luke's situation, the destruction of property is a clear indicator of high intensity. Additionally, the emotional toll and potential risks associated with such intense behaviours cannot be overlooked.

Assessing intensity helps in tailoring interventions. It's important to understand not just the behaviour itself but the factors contributing to its intensity. This understanding aids in developing strategies that address the root causes, manage the immediate risks, and provide appropriate support to the individual.



When the behaviour persists for a period of time that significantly interferes with a person's daily life, functioning, and overall well-being it is concerning.

For example, ‘Joanne’ has been regularly withdrawing from others to spend time alone and has not been engaging in social activities for some time now. Over the last six months Joanne has been spending the majority of her day in her room every day.

In the assessment of behaviours of concern, 'Duration' refers to the length of time a behaviour continues. This measure helps us understand how persistent the behaviour is and the extent to which it affects a person's daily life, functioning, and overall well-being. When a behaviour persists over an extended period, it often indicates a deeper, underlying issue that needs attention.

Take 'Joanne's' situation as an example. Her behaviour of withdrawing from others and spending the majority of her time alone in her room has been ongoing for six months. This prolonged duration of social withdrawal is not just a fleeting phase; it's a persistent pattern that is significantly interfering with her normal social functioning and daily activities.

The importance of assessing duration lies in its ability to signal long-term patterns and trends. A behaviour that persists for a long period, like in Joanne's case, can have cumulative effects on an individual's mental health, social relationships, and overall quality of life. It might also indicate the presence of more complex issues, such as depression or anxiety, which require comprehensive intervention.

Measuring duration involves observing and documenting how long a behaviour lasts over time. This ongoing observation helps in understanding whether the behaviour is improving, worsening, or remaining constant. For Joanne, the six-month duration of her behaviour is a clear indicator that her situation needs careful evaluation and possible intervention.

Understanding duration is also crucial in planning long-term support strategies. It helps in determining the intensity and type of interventions needed. In Joanne's case, a prolonged duration of behaviour might necessitate a more in-depth approach, possibly involving counseling, social skills training, or other therapeutic interventions.


Useful Guides

If you are looking for more examples of behaviours of concern read: Ten Examples of Behaviours of Concern. This article provides ten example behaviours that are relatively common and gives detail on why the behaviour is concerning.

In terms of addressing behaviours of concern, it's really helpful to have an insight into the causes of behaviours of concern.  Thinking about the neurological causes and environmental influences on the individual (and a combination of both) that can often lead to behaviours of concern manifesting.

If you are looking for more practical ways to assess, measure and address behaviours of concern then Functional Behaviour Assessments are a very useful resource in this as are Positive Behaviour Support Plans.

Positive Behaviour Support Resources and Services

Everything parents, educators and professionals need to help children of all ages learn positive ways of behaving and managing emotions so that they can be happier, healthier and reach their full potential.

Behaviour Help is a registered NDIS provider.

Ask Dolly

Since you’re here, you probably have questions and concerns. I am Dolly Bhargava, am here to help. I am a NDIS registered behaviour support practitioner and speech pathologist.

I have worked in a number of settings for over 21 years so, how can I help?

Please tell me what is worrying you right now and I will do my best to recommend resources and/or services that will be most useful to you in your situation.

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