Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Andrew R. Brulle


The concept of adaptive behavior has been present in the definition of adaptive behavior for many years. With the advent of intelligence testing, adaptive behavior was deemphasized, but later reemerged as widespread dissatisfaction with the testing movement grew among researchers in the area of mental retardation. The importance of the concept of adaptive behavior has been affirmed by the American Association on Mental Deficiency (A.A.M.D.), which developed a dual criteria system of defining mental retardation that included adaptive behavior as a major component. The Federal government later adopted this classification system for funding purposes in P.L. 94-142.

The valid and reliable measurement of adaptive behavior is a major concern of researchers, diagnosticians, and teachers in the field of mental retardation. The present study investigated the inter-rater reliability of one of the most widely used measures of adaptive behavior: the A.A.M.D. Adaptive Behavior Scale (School Edition). A total of 18 subjects (9 male and 9 female) were randomly assigned to 2 raters. The raters used the ABS-SE to rate the adaptive behavior of the subjects. The ratings of the scorers were then compared using a simple agreement formula and kappa (a correlational statistic which accounts for chance agreements).

The results of this study show that: (1) based on total factor scores the ABS-SE may be useful in making placement decisions; (2) the ABS-SE may provide useful information for making some programming decisions; and (3) the contention of the authors, that teachers provide the most reliable information, when the first person method of assessment is used, was supported. Comments by the investigators and raters provide suggestions that may increase the reliability of the ABS-SE. Several questions that need further investigation are also raised by the author.

This investigation provides the impetus for further investigation of the inter-rater reliability of the ABS-SE. It also provides valuable information as to the amount of confidence educators and diagnosticians should place in this popular instrument. This study has shown that those concerned with the reliable and valid measurement of adaptive behavior must continuously refine the instruments used to assess this concept.