What is a Functional Behaviour Assessment?

An introduction to Functional Behaviour Assessment providing a clear answer to the question 'What is FBA?'

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Understanding human behaviour, especially when it is challenging or problematic, can be a complex process. This is where a Functional Behaviour Assessment (FBA) comes into play. It’s a strategy used by professionals in psychology, education, and behavioural therapy to understand the ‘why’ behind certain behaviours. Let’s delve into what an FBA is, its process, and why it is a crucial tool in various settings.

Unraveling the ‘Why’ Behind Behaviour

At its core, an FBA is a systematic method for collecting information about a person’s behaviour and the environment in which it occurs. The goal is to identify the purpose or function of specific behaviours, particularly those that are disruptive or harmful. This understanding is key to developing strategies to modify such behaviours effectively.

The Process of a Functional Behaviour Assessment

An FBA typically involves seven steps.

Read next: Seven Steps of Functional Behaviour Assessment (a detailed look at these seven steps).

  1. Identify the Behaviour of Concern: It starts with clearly defining the behaviour of concern. This behaviour must be observable and measurable.
  2. Gather Information: Next, data is collected through various means such as interviews, direct observations, and reviewing past records. This helps in understanding the circumstances under which the behaviour occurs.
  3. Analyse the Data: The collected information is analysed to identify patterns and triggers for the behaviour.
  4. Formulate a Hypothesis: Based on the analysis, a hypothesis is developed regarding the function of the behaviour.
  5. Develop a Positive Behaviour Support Plan (PSB) / Intervention: Strategies are created to address the behaviour, considering the hypothesised function.
  6. Implement and Monitor: The PSB is put into practice, and its effectiveness is regularly monitored.


Why Are FBAs Used?

FBAs are particularly beneficial in several contexts:

  • Educational Settings: For students with behavioural challenges or special needs, FBAs help in creating personalised interventions. This aids in better learning and social integration.
  • Clinical and Mental Health Services: They assist in understanding behaviours related to various mental health conditions, leading to more effective treatment plans.
  • Workplaces and Organisations: FBAs can be used to address issues like workplace conflicts or productivity challenges.
  • Forensic Settings: They help in understanding the behaviour of individuals within the criminal justice system, contributing to rehabilitation and risk management strategies.

The Benefits of FBAs

  • Targeted Interventions: FBAs lead to more effective behaviour management as interventions are based on the specific reasons behind a behaviour.
  • Prevention Focus: They help in identifying and modifying the factors that trigger behaviours of concern, thus preventing their occurrence.
  • Improving Quality of Life: For individuals with behaviour challenges, FBAs can significantly improve their quality of life by helping them develop more appropriate behaviours.
  • Empowering Stakeholders: FBAs involve collaborating with those who interact with the individual, such as family, teachers, or therapists, empowering them to be part of the solution.


A Functional Behaviour Assessment is a powerful tool in understanding and addressing behaviours that are challenging or problematic. By identifying the reasons behind a behaviour, FBAs pave the way for interventions that are not only effective but also respectful of the individual’s needs. Whether in schools, clinical settings, or workplaces, FBAs offer a structured approach to improving behaviours and enhancing overall well-being.

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.

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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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