But I'm not really bad: Using an idiographic versus a nomothetic approach to understand the reasons for difficult behaviour in children

Vicki Bitsika

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The number of students who are identified as experiencing behavioural difficulties in the mainstream school setting is growing. However, current efforts by teachers to address these behavioural difficulties are seriously limited because of lack of training in the procedures for assessing and working with difficult behaviour. This paper will argue that the apparent failure of traditional “behaviour modification” in producing positive changes in difficult behaviour lies in its prescriptive application of general strategies to specific student problems. This approach to behaviour change is ineffective because it is not based on an understanding of the reasons for difficult behaviour. The functional assessment framework for investigating and understanding student difficulties will be presented as a more efficient means of changing the behaviour problems that occur in the classroom. At the foundation of this framework is the assumption that meaningful and long-term changes to difficult behaviour can only result from teaching the student to behave differently rather than focusing on the elimination of problem behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-98
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


Cite this