The term “ABC” refers to the antecedent, behavior, and consequence that describe a behavioral event. ABC data collection allows us to better understand the function of a behavior and identify any behavior patterns. ABC data can be collected by caregivers, teachers, and service providers in the child’s natural environment.
An antecedent is what occurs immediately before the behavior of interest. Common antecedents that can produce an undesirable behavior include demands, transitions, or denied access to a preferred item or activity. The behavior is anything that the individual does. It is important to describe behaviors in observable and measurable terms. In other words, clearly describe what the behavior looks like. The consequence is what occurs immediately after the behavior of interest. Common consequences that may follow a behavior include attention, escape from a task, or access to a preferred item or activity.
Antecedent: A parent places a demand on a child to put on their jacket
Behavior: Child shouts, “No!” and throws the jacket across the room
Consequence: Parent gives a verbal reprimand to the child
While collecting ABC data, avoid using subjective terms such as “felt upset” or “was frustrated”, as these terms can have different meanings. For example, “throwing a jacket across the room” is a more objective description compared to “felt upset”. Describing events objectively provides a clear understanding of what each antecedent, behavior, and consequence looks like. ABC data should be recorded as soon as possible for the most accurate description of the event. ABC data collection is a very useful tool that helps us better understand the “why” of behavior.