Has public policy exceeded our knowledge base? A review of the functional behavioral assessment literature

J. Ron Nelson, Maura L. Roberts, Sarup R. Mathur, Robert B. Rutherford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

74 Scopus citations


The 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandate that schools evaluate, through the process of a functional behavioral assessment, students with disabilities who are exhibiting significant behavior problems that lead to suspension and expulsion. We examined the literature on functional behavioral assessment according to external validity and assessment with regard to its cost-benefits (i.e., its effectiveness relative to other approaches, time, and effort). The results indicate that although functional behavioral assessment has shown promise for youth and adults with low-incidence disabilities in clinical settings, evidence regarding its effectiveness when applied to youth with both low- and high-incidence disabilities in school settings is limited. There appears to be no research that has examined the cost-benefits of functional behavioral assessment. Future research needs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-179
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Disorders
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 1999


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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