In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Definition
  • Identification and Prevalence
  • Placement
  • Types or Facets
  • School and Post School Outcomes
  • Disproportionality
  • Discipline
  • Suspension and Expulsion
  • Positive Behavior Supports
  • Response to Intervention
  • Academic and Social Interventions
  • Cognitive Behavioral Interventions

Education Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
Sarup R. Mathur, Katie Sprouls, Rebecca I. Hartzell
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0072


The term emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) encompasses a wide variety of behaviors and characteristics. Students with EBD often exhibit behaviors that interfere with academic success in schools. Like other students with disabilities, they also experience difficulties learning in various content areas, such as reading and math. Many of these students have difficulty maintaining appropriate social relationships with peers and adults. Some of these students exhibit noncompliant behavior, aggression, and disrespect toward authority figures. Due to these challenging behaviors, they experience unfortunate predicaments, such as misidentification, marginalization from access to education, and exclusion from general education environments. Since the 1980s, the federal government in the United States has become a major player in the movement to provide services for students with EBD. Although the implementation of the laws has not always produced consistent and positive outcomes, they have increased an international concern with the issue of education and treatment of students with EBD. It has become apparent that we need to elevate our expectations for positive outcomes for students with EBD around the world.

General Overviews

Schools are the largest providers of emotional, behavioral, and educational supports for children and adolescents in the United States (Hoagwood and Johnson 2003). More students in the school-aged population exhibit emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues necessitating supports and interventions than those who actually receive it. Reviews of research suggest that students with EBD need early interventions and ongoing supports for positive outcomes in their lives (Bradley, et al. 2004; Landrum, et al. 2003). EBD coexists with multiple identifiable conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder) that require comprehensive care, which is not consistently available to many of these students. Studies have examined the importance of early intervention programs for children with EBD and have found that these programs benefit children with EBD (Egger and Angold 2006; Kauffman, et al. 2007; Marsh, et al. 2017; Wagner, et al. 2005).

  • Bradley, R., K. Henderson, and D. A. Monfore. 2004. A national perspective on children with emotional disorders. Behavioral Disorders 29.3: 211–223.

    Highlights that one-third (31 percent) of all children with EBD are served in more restrictive settings. When compared to students from other disability categories, that percentage is significantly higher than the average.

  • Egger, H. L., and A. Angold. 2006. Common emotional and behavioral disorders in preschool children: Presentation, nosology, and epidemiology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 47.3–4: 313−337.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01618.x

    Reviewed research on behavioral and emotional psychiatric disorders in preschool children (children ages two through five years old), and focused on the five most common groups of childhood psychiatric disorders: attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, oppositional defiant and conduct disorders, anxiety disorders, and depressive disorders.

  • Hoagwood, K., and J. Johnson. 2003. School psychology: A public health framework; From evidence-based practices to evidence-based policies. Journal of School Psychology 41:3–21.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0022-4405(02)00141-3

    Highlights that school psychologists can play a central role in bridging the gap between research and practice, through the use of evidenced-based practices (EBP) in schools for students with disabilities, including those with EBD.

  • Kauffman, J. M., D. R. Mock, and R. L. Simpson. 2007. Problems related to underservice of students with emotional or behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders 33.1: 43–57.

    Students with EBD are dramatically underidentified and underserved. Only a relatively small percentage of students with EBD receive special education or any other kind of treatment; and the negative consequences of nontreatment and treatment delay are serious.

  • Landrum, T. J., M. Tankersley, and J. M. Kauffman. 2003. What is special about special education for students with emotional or behavioral disorders? Journal of Special Education 37.3: 148–156.

    DOI: 10.1177/00224669030370030401

    Identifies three broad intervention areas of inappropriate behavior, academic learning problems, and interpersonal relationships. Provides a brief overview of a number of empirically validated practices. The authors argue for specialized interventions for students with EBD because of their unique needs.

  • Marsh, R. J., J. J. Morgan, K. Higgins, A. Lark, and J. T. Watts. 2017. Provision of mental health services to students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Journal of Disability Policy Studies 28.2: 90–98.

    DOI: 10.1177/1044207317710698

    An analysis of the provision of mental health and how services are delivered in the educational environment for students with emotional and behavioral disorders.

  • Wagner, M., K. Kutash, A. J. Duchnowski, M. H. Epstein, and W. C. Sumi. 2005. The children and youth we serve: A national picture of the characteristics of students with emotional disturbances receiving special education. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders 13.2: 79–96.

    DOI: 10.1177/10634266050130020201

    Presents longitudinal trends of characteristics for students with EBD served in special education using data from the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study and the National Longitudinal Transition Study. The findings indicate programming that addresses both the academic and the behavioral needs of these children and youth.

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