+44 (0) 20 3301 3985
Why does my child do that? Understanding your child’s behaviour through the 4 functions of behaviour
First Bridge Centre garden

As a parent you may find yourself asking “Why is my child doing this?” when they begin engaging in a particular behaviour. While it may seem like it could be a myriad of different things, it is important to note that there are only four categories of behaviour functions. All behaviour serves a purpose and the four main possibilities of why your child may be demonstrating new behaviour includes: escape, attention, access, and sensory.  

While knowing the functions of behaviour is helpful for a child’s Board Certified Behavior Analysts® (BCBA) and Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Therapist to decrease problem behaviour and increase appropriate and desired behaviours, it also serves as beneficial for the parents and caregivers. By understanding why your child is engaging in a problem behaviour, you can better know how to react to it. Let’s look at the four main functions of behaviour that will help you to recognize a child’s motivations behind their actions. 

1. Escape: When an individual engages in a behaviour to end or avoid something they do not like. An example of a behaviour that could be maintained by escape is your child yelling/hiding/arguing when told to clean their room or when they drop to the floor and start crying when its time to complete toothbrushing, which is an non-preferred task for them.  

2. Attention: When an individual engages in a behaviour to receive another person’s attention. An example of a behaviour that could be maintained by attention is your child yelling when you are on the phone or starting to run around/hit when you are talking to their sibling. 

3. Access: When an individual engages in a behaviour to get access to a tangible, location, or activity. A tangible is something an individual could touch or pick up. An example of this function of behaviour could be a child screaming and crying in the checkout line at the grocery store because they want a candy bar or a child screaming because they cannot have more iPad time.  

4. Sensory: When an individual engages in a behaviour because it physically feels good, providing a pleasant sensory input, or relieves an internal sensation that feels bad. Many individuals with autism engage in motor or vocal stereotypy. This is referred to as stimming which can also be known as self-stimulatory behaviour. Repetitive behaviour such as spinning, hand flapping, arm waving, hand tapping, finger wiggling, or rocking back and forth are some forms of self-stimulatory behaviours. While one child may enjoy sensory stimulation from spinning, another child may rock back and forth to de-stimulate their senses.  

If you are experiencing challenging behaviour, the first step is to identify the function behind it. In doing so, we can prevent problem behaviour and offer children an alternative and positive way to have their needs met.

To find out more about ABA services First Bridge Centre offer, please feel free to make an enquiry

-Farrah Kuraishi (BCBA), First Bridge Centre