Bite-Sized Tips: Purpose/ Functions of Behaviors

Behavioral researchers tells us that human behaviors has a purpose. We can apply this theory to your child’s difficult behaviors to manage them better. Knowing the purpose will help you identify what is the best response when you face with the challenges.

Projected in this research are six purposes of difficult behaviors displayed by people with intellectual disability.

  1. To gain attention from someone
  2. To stop receiving attention from someone
  3. To engage in a preferred activity, e.g. eating, playing a game or gaining access to handphones/ IPad
  4. To escape from task
  5. To obtain physical pleasure
  6. To escape physical pain


  • Some behaviors may have more than one purpose. E.g. a hitting behaviour may have a purpose to escape task and also to gain attention from his parents after the behavior.
  • Do not get confused with how a behaviour looks. E.g. Child A and Child B may be crying but purpose may be completely different. Child A may be crying to escape physical pain, while Child B may be crying to gain access to a preferred activity.
  • It is important to know that the difficult behaviors displayed by a child will usually be for just one or multiple purpose as stated. If several difficult behaviors are displayed, it is important to find out if the group of behaviors have the same or different purposes and manage them accordingly.

Therapy Kidz provides Behavior Therapy with a Naturalistic approach to help children with autism and children with additional needs progress and build skills.

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