Adaptive behavior

This article is about human behaviors. For adaptive behaviors in children, see adaptive behaviors. For animal behaviors, see Adaptive behavior (ecology). For computational behavior, see Adaptive algorithm. For the journal, see Adaptive Behavior (journal).
"Adaptive" redirects here. For other uses, see Adaptation (disambiguation).

Adaptive behavior is a type of behavior that is used to adjust to another type of behavior or situation. This is often characterized as a kind of behavior that allows an individual to change a nonconstructive or disruptive behavior to something more constructive. These behaviors are most often social or personal behaviors. For example, a constant repetitive action could be re-focused on something that creates or builds something. In other words, the behavior can be adapted to something else.

In contrast, maladaptive behavior is a type of behavior that is often used to reduce one's anxiety, but the result is dysfunctional and non-productive. For example, avoiding situations because you have unrealistic fears may initially reduce your anxiety, but it is non-productive in alleviating the actual problem in the long term. Maladaptive behavior is frequently used as an indicator of abnormality or mental dysfunction, since its assessment is relatively free from subjectivity. However, many behaviors considered moral can be maladaptive, such as dissent or abstinence.

Adaptive behavior may be affected by mechanisms in the brain that lead to addiction. Regarding addiction as a disease provides opportunities for its treatment.[1]

Adaptive behavior reflects an individual’s social and practical competence of daily skills to meet the demands of everyday living. Behavior patterns change throughout a person's development, across life settings and social constructs, changes in personal values, and the expectations of others. It is important to assess adaptive behavior in order to determine how well an individual functions in daily life: vocationally, socially, educationally, etc.

Scope (general definition)

Adaptive behavior includes the age-appropriate behaviors necessary for people to live independently and to function safely and appropriately in daily life. Adaptive behaviors include life skills such as grooming, dressing, safety, food handling, working, money management, cleaning, making friends, social skills, and the personal responsibility expected of their age and social group.[2]


Behavior scales

To determine a student's adaptive behavior capacities, professionals focus on the student's conceptual skills, social skills, and practical skills. To measure adaptive skills, professionals use adaptive behavior scales that have been normed on individuals with and without disabilities. Most adaptive behavior scales are completed by interviewing a parent, a teacher, or another individual who is familiar with the student's daily activities. Students may have a combination of strengths and needs in any or all of the areas regarding conceptual, social and practical skills.

Behavior scales help to measure possible impairments or delays in everyday life that are often related to a disability or illness. Measures of adaptive behavior must assess typical behavior rather than optimal performance. Adaptive behavior assessments are important for diagnosing intellectual disabilities.

The Vineland Scales-II is an instrument for supporting the diagnosis of intellectual and developmental disabilities. It not only aids in diagnosis but also provides valuable information for intervention plans and educational strategies. Additionally it helps determine eligibility for special programs and services. The scales of the Vineland II were organized within a four-domain structure: Communication, Daily Living, Socialization, and Motor Skills. In addition, Vineland-II offers an optional Maladaptive Behavior Index. It includes four forms: Survey Interview, Parent/Caregiver Rating, Teacher Rating, and Expanded Interview, which provide in-depth information and covers the full spectrum of adaptive behavior.

AAIDD plans to release a new Diagnostic Adaptive Behavior Scale (DABS) in 2015 to provide an additional comprehensive standardized assessment of adaptive behavior. This scale emphasizes the importance of adaptive behavior in the diagnosis of intellectual disabilities because of its implications for special education services, home and community-based services, Social Security Administration benefits, and specific treatment within the criminal justice system

Specialized behavior


The adaptive skills exhibited by a person with mental disability are critical factors in determining the support he/she requires for success in school, work, community, and home environments. Children with mental disabilities tend to have substantial deficits in adaptive behavior. These limitations can take many forms and tend to occur across domains of functioning. Limitations in self-care skills and social relationships, as well as behavioral excesses are common characteristics of individuals with mental disabilities. Individuals with mental disabilities who require extensive supports are often taught basic self care skills such as dressing, eating, and hygiene.[2] Direct instruction and environmental supports, such as added prompts and simplified routines are necessary to ensure that deficits in these adaptive areas do not come to seriously limit one's quality of life.[2]


Most children with milder forms of mental disabilities learn how to take care of their basic needs, but they often require training in self-management skills to achieve the levels of performance necessary for eventual independent living. Making and sustaining friendships and personal relationships present significant challenges for many persons with mental disabilities. Limited cognitive processing skills, poor language development, and unusual or inappropriate behaviors can seriously impede interacting with others. Teaching students with mental disabilities appropriate social and interpersonal skills is one of the most important functions of special education. Students with mental disabilities more often exhibit behavior problems than children without disabilities.[2] Some of the behaviors observed by students with mental disabilities are difficulties accepting criticism, limited self-control, and bizarre and inappropriate behaviors. The greater the severity of the mental disabilities, generally the higher the incidence of behavioral problems.[2]


According to practopoietic theory,[3] creation of adaptive behavior involves special, poietic interactions among different levels of system organization. These interactions are described on the basis of cybernetic theory in particular, good regulator theorem. In practopoietic systems, lower levels of organization determine the properties of higher levels of organization, but not the other way around. This ensures that lower levels of organization (e.g., genes) always possess cybernetically more general knowledge than the higher levels of organizationknowledge at a higher level being a special case of the knowledge at the lower level. At the highest level of organization lies the overt behavior. Cognitive operations lay in the middle parts of that hierarchy, above genes and below behavior. For behavior to be adaptive, at least three adaptive traverses are needed.

See also


  1. R. Andrew Chambers (2008). Impulsivity, dual diagnosis, and the structure of motivated behavior in addiction. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31, pp 443-444 doi:10.1017/S0140525X08004792
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 William Heward: Exceptional Children 2005
  3. Danko Nikolić (2014). "Practopoiesis: Or how life fosters a mind. arXiv:1402.5332 [q-bio.NC].". Retrieved 2014-06-06.

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