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Maladaptive Behavior

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Problem behaviors


Maladaptive behavior is defined as behavior that interferes with an individual’s activities of daily living or ability to adjust to and participate in particular settings.

Maladaptive behaviors lie along a spectrum from more minor, less impairing behaviors (i.e., nail biting, difficulty separating) to more severely impairing behaviors (i.e., self-injurious or over-sexualized behaviors) that seriously interfere with individuals’ ability to maintain relationships with others, learn, and/or engage in adaptive, age-appropriate activities and settings. Because of their impairing nature, maladaptive behaviors are often the target of interventions. Problem behaviors are often a concern for children with developmental disabilities; maladaptive behaviors commonly associated with autism spectrum disorders include self-injurious behaviors (e.g., headbanging), stereotypies, aggression, and temper tantrums.

Although maladaptive behavior is related to adaptive...

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References and Readings

  • Dominick, K. D., Davis, N. O., Lainhart, J., Tager-Fusberg, H., & Folstein, S. (2007). Atypical behaviors in children with autism and children with a history of language impairment. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 28, 145–167.

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  • Matson, J. L., & Nebel-Schwalm, M. (2007). Assessing challenging behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders: A review. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 28(6), 567–579.

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Correspondence to Sarah A. O. Gray .

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Gray, S.A.O. (2013). Maladaptive Behavior. In: Volkmar, F.R. (eds) Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Springer, New York, NY.

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