Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

Living Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan

AAMD Adaptive Behavior Scales

  • Crista A. HoppEmail author
  • Ida Sue Baron
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-56782-2_1503-2



The American Association for Mental Deficiency Adaptive Behavior Scales (AAMD ABS) is a revised edition (1993) of the original assessments that were published in 1969. The American Association for Mental Retardation (AAMR) (formerly known as the American Association for Mental Deficiency) has changed its name to American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD). Therefore, intellectual disabilities have replaced mental retardation as the terminology of choice. The behavior scales have been published in two versions, the Adaptive Behavior Scales-Residential and Community, 2nd edition (ABS-RC: 2) and the Adaptive Behavior Scales-School, 2nd edition (ABS-S: 2). Current versions are a comprehensive compilation of the past versions. These assessments seek to develop an estimate of adaptive behaviors in two scales defined with personal independence and maladaptive behaviors in individuals with intellectual disabilities. Items are rated with a yes/no response, on a 0–3 scale, or by frequency. Historically, the ABS-RC: 2 was used in institutions, but it is now also used in community settings, whereas the ABS-S: 2 was designed for school settings.

For both the ABS-RC: 2 and the ABS-S: 2, the assessment can be administered by two approaches. The assessment can be completed by a professional or paraprofessional or by someone familiar with the individual. Interpretation of results should be completed by someone formally trained in psychometrics and these scales.

The ABS-S: 2 evaluates an individual’s ability to cope with challenges they encounter in their school, and aids in the diagnosis of intellectual disabilities at ages 3–21. There are nine subscales in the first part of the assessment, measuring personal independence and responsibility of daily living: independent functioning, physical development, economic activity, language development, numbers and time, prevocational/vocational activity, self-direction, responsibility, and socialization. Part two of the assessment addresses behavioral domains and consists of seven subscales: social behavior, conformity, trustworthiness, stereotyped and hyperactive behavior, self-abusive behavior, social engagement, and disturbing interpersonal behavior.

The ABS-S: 2 was normed on 2,074 students with intellectual disabilities and 1,254 of their peers without intellectual disabilities. Administration takes place in an interview format with parents or teachers and may vary from 20 min to 2 h. Scoring is completed by hand. Raw scores are converted into percentiles, standard scores, and age equivalents for each subdomain. Five factors can be derived: personal self-sufficiency, community self-sufficiency, personal social responsibility, social adjustment, and personal adjustment. Percentiles, factor standard scores, and age equivalents are then reported based on factor scores.

The ABS-RC: 2 is also useful for the assessment of personal development and social behavior in individuals with intellectual disabilities, but it has been developed for individuals aged 18–79. Like the ABS-S: 2, the assessment has two parts, but there are more subscales in each part. The first part has ten subscales: independent functioning, physical development, economic activity, language development, numbers and time, domestic activity, prevocational/vocational activity, self-direction, responsibility, and socialization. The second part contains eight subscales: social behavior, conformity, trustworthiness, stereotyped and hyperactive behavior, sexual behavior, self-abusive behavior, social engagement, and disturbing interpersonal behavior. The ABS-RC: 2 was normed on a sample of 4,000 adults with intellectual disabilities, and administration times vary between 15 and 40 min, depending on the informant’s knowledge of the individual being assessed. Raw scores are recorded and then converted to standard scores and percentiles. The subscales yield the same five-factor scales as the ABS-S: 2.

Historical Background

The AAMD first published the ABS in 1969 in response to the definition of mental retardation that was amended in 1959 to include adaptive behavior. The ABS-S: 2, first published in 1969 by Nihira, Foster, Shellhaas, and Leland, was revised and standardized in 1974 by Lambert, Windmiller, and Cole and again in 1981 by Lambert and Windmiller. The second and current edition was published in 1993. The ABS-RC:2 was also first published in 1969 by Nihira, Foster, Shellhaas, and Leland. It was revised in 1974, and again in 1993. The goals of the revisions were to improve the reliability of the interviewer in differentiating between individuals with intellectual disabilities who are institutionalized and those living in the community. Previously, these individuals had been classified at different adaptive behavior levels according to the AAIDD.

Psychometric Data

The authors of the ABS-S: 2 report three types of reliability: internal consistency, stability, and interscorer. Internal consistency is reported to range from 0.79 to 0.98, while measures of stability range from 0.82 to 0.97. For Part I, interscorer reliability ranges from 0.95 to 0.98 whereas it is 0.96–0.99 for Part II. Authors report criterion validity in Part 1 moderately correlated with the ABS and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, although Part II was not significantly related to either (Lyman 2007).

The ABS-RC: 2 reports an internal consistency ranging from 0.81 to 0.97. Concerning discriminant validity, adaptive behavior as measured in Part II was not related to the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale and Adaptive Behavior Inventory (ABI), other measures of maladaptive behaviors.

Clinical Uses

The ABS: 2 assesses the status of individuals with intellectual disability, emotional maladjustment, autism, or developmental disability. It enables a professional to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of an individual in adaptive areas, document progress, and measure the effectiveness of intervention/school programs. The manual cautions that the examiner should interview a significant informant or administer the instrument to that significant informant. If an informant is unable to provide needed information, then another informant needs to be interviewed. Whereas the ABS is a standard assessment used in determining adaptive and maladaptive behavior, its psychometric properties are limited, especially compared to other measures such as the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales.

Whereas a strength of the ABS-S: 2 is that it was normed on students with and without intellectual disabilities, the ABS-RC: 2’s standard scores and percentile ranks were not compared to individuals without intellectual disabilities. Another weakness is that it has not been renormed in two decades.

Therefore, assessment may not meet criteria for a diagnosis of mental retardation according to the AAMR requirements.


References and Readings

  1. Aiken, L. (1996). Assessment of intellectual functioning. Basel: Burkhauser.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Balboni, G., Tasse, M., Schalock, R., Borthwick-Duffy, S., Spreat, S., Thissen, D., Widaman, K., Zhang, D., & Navas, P. (2014). The diagnostic adaptive behavior scale: Evaluating its diagnostic sensitivity and specificity. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35, 2884–2893.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bracken, B., & Nagle, R. (2007). Psychoeducational assessment of preschool children. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Hogg, J., & Langa, A. (2005). Assessing adults with intellectual disabilities. Malden: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Lyman, W. C. (2007). Test Review:Lambert, N., Nihira, K., &Lel, H. (1993), AAMR Adaptive Behavior Scales: School (ABS-S:2) Assessment for Effective Intervention, 33(1), 55–57.Google Scholar
  6. Reynolds, C., & Fletcher-Janzen, E. (2014). Encyclopedia of special education, a reference for the education of children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities and other exceptional individuals (Vol. 3, 4th ed.). Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent PracticeConnected Pathways CoachingHerndonUSA
  2. 2.Professor of Pediatrics and NeurologyUniversity of Virginia School of MedicineCharlottesvilleUSA