Boggs Center Banner PBSIS Banner

Mapping-out Behavior Patterns


Most behavior we see in schools typically serves to either help the student obtain something they want (e.g., attention) or escape something they want to get out of (e.g., task demand).   To determine the function of behavior, we have to describe what is happening in terms of a four part framework:  Setting Events, Antecedent Triggers, Behavioral Response and Consequences.  As new information is learned, it is organized into one of these categories until a pattern forms that suggests function of behavior. We refer to the process of categorizing information as mapping-out the behavior pattern.  Refer to the Guide to Mapping-out Behavior Patterns document for a description, tips and examples for categorizing information into the S-A-B-C framework.


Setting Events: Global life influences that undermine our ability to cope and self-manage emotional responses.  For example:


  • Reinforcement history with people or settings
  • Medical-physiological Issues
  • Structure & organization of the environment
  • Relationships & social support with  adults
  • Peer networks
  • Social & cultural influences
Antecedent Triggers
Immediate Consequences
Delayed Consequences
Events that happen immediately before the behavior
What the student says and does in response to the trigger
The immediate response of people in the environment (e.g., verbal redirection)
A response that occurs at some point after the incident has occurred (e.g., suspension)


EXAMPLE:  Knowing how to map out behavior patterns is critical to function-based problem solving.  Here is an example of how the information for Randy, a 7th grade student who has difficulty during academic routines, was mapped out into the four part framework work:


Setting Events
  • History of academic failure going back 3 years
  • Appears to lack some basic skills that makes current academic work too difficult for him
  • Decoding and comprehensive are below grade level
  • Difficulty managing multiple assignments and time lines
  • Is easily overwhelmed and tends to give up quickly
Antecedent Triggers
Immediate Consequences
Delayed Consequences
2-3 minutes into a challenging task (e.g., work is too difficult, he doesn't understand the directions, he doesn't know what to do, etc.)

Precursor signals:  Looks around, pencil down or is tapping it, puts head back and looks at ceiling

Initial occurrence:  makes comments under his breath, tries to engage peers either through conversation or action (e.g., kicking back of desk, flicking head, making faces, etc.)

Peak occurrence:  Refuses to start work when prompted, curses, comments that the work is stupid or useless, huffs and puffs, puts hand up to teacher to indicate she should stop talking, etc.

  • Verbal redirection
  • Silent signals to stop or get started with work
  • Assistance with task
  • Point loss or reduced grade
  • Call parent
  • Letter home
  • After school detention
  • In school suspension