Child Care & Pre-K

Applications of PBIS in Child Care and Pre-K Classrooms

Young children’s challenging behavior in child care and preschool settings can have very serious consequences if not resolved quickly and efficiently. Indeed, programs providing early child care and education are often the settings where serious challenging behaviors are first observed. It is common for challenging behaviors to be more pronounced, and to have greater impact, in these group settings than in the child’s home where accommodations are more easily implemented and where perceived demands and restrictions may be less conspicuous.

The application of PBIS in child care and preschool settings generally follows the same general process as the family-centered model. That is, the process begins with the assembling of a team and the establishment of a consensus regarding goals. Functional assessment of the challenging behaviors in all relevant contexts comes next, and the results of the functional assessment are used to construct a behavior support plan. The plan is then implemented, evaluated and, as necessary, refined and redeployed. The process is generally facilitated by an experienced and knowledgeable consultant, but the assessments and the behavior support plan are constructed through a collaborative process. The process typically requires less time than the family-centered model because the plan is limited to a particular setting which tends to be more structured than the home environment, and because the complexities of family functioning are not on the agenda (Dunlap & Fox, 1999b; Lucyshyn et al., 2002). Still, serious challenging behaviors identified in a setting such as preschool are often indicative of problems that might be manifested in other settings, so it is prudent for school-based teams to be alert to the need for even more comprehensive support plans that would transcend the initial situation-specific concern.

The empirical literature documenting effects of PBIS in child care and preschool settings is growing rapidly. For instance, Gettinger and Stoiber (2006) published a study in which they compared classrooms where PBIS was implemented by school-based teams (referred to as the “FACET” program) with control classrooms which did not implement the PBIS process. The PBIS classrooms, with functional assessments, collaborative processes, and evidence-based intervention components, proved superior to the control classrooms in terms of ratios of positive to negative child behaviors. These authors also reported that behavioral improvements were positively correlated with the level of fidelity of the school teams in implementing the PBIS model.


Dunlap, G., & Fox, L. (1999b). Supporting families of young children with autism. Infants and Young Children, 12, 48-54.

Lucyshyn, J., Horner, R.H., Dunlap, G., & Albin, R.W., & Ben, K.R. (2002). Positive behavior support with families. In J. Lucyshyn, G. Dunlap, & Albin, R.W. (Eds), Families and positive behavior support: Addressing problem behaviors in family contexts (pp. 3-43). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

Gettinger, M., & Stoiber, K.C. (2006). Functional assessment, collaboration, and evidence-based treatment: Analysis of a team approach for addressing challenging behaviors in young children. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 231-252.