Behavioral Observation Scale (BOS): A Review

In recent years, research into behavioral assessment has become increasingly important in a variety of fields, including psychology, education, and medicine. One of the most widely used and reliable assessment tools is the Behavioral Observation Scale (BOS). This article provides an overview of the history, development, and use of the BOS, as well as its current applications and limitations.

History and Development

The BOS was first developed by psychologists James and Mary Ann Brackett in 1965. The scale was designed to measure observable behavior in children and adolescents in order to assess their social functioning. It was based on the belief that behavior can be accurately observed and measured, and that these observations can provide important information about a person’s functioning.

The original BOS consisted of seven categories of behavior that could be observed and rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 indicating the highest level of functioning. The categories included: verbalizations, physical behavior, self-control, personal relationships, task-related activities, motor coordination, and social interactions. The original scale was later modified and expanded to include more categories of behavior, such as aggression, mood, and affect.

Current Applications and Uses

The BOS is now used in a variety of settings, including clinical assessments, research, and educational settings. It is a useful tool for assessing a variety of behaviors, such as: social functioning, emotional regulation, communication skills, motor coordination, and task-related activities. The BOS can also be used to detect changes in behavior over time, as well as to identify areas of strength and weakness.

The BOS is also commonly used to assess the functioning of children and adolescents with developmental disabilities, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is particularly useful in helping to identify areas of need and to measure progress over time.

Limitations and Challenges

The BOS is a useful tool for assessing behavior, but it is not without its limitations. For example, the scale relies heavily on the subjective observations of the assessor, and there is potential for bias and errors in judgment. Additionally, the BOS does not provide a comprehensive assessment of a person’s functioning; it is limited to the behaviors that are observed and rated.


The BOS is an important and widely used tool for assessing behavior in children and adolescents. It is particularly useful for assessing social functioning, emotional regulation, communication skills, motor coordination, and task-related activities. However, it is important to keep in mind the limitations of the BOS, such as the potential for bias and errors in judgment, as well as the limited scope of the assessment.


Brackett, J. A., & Brackett, M. A. (1965). The behavior observation scale for children and adolescents. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 29(3), 223-229.

Williams, K. L., & Goldstein, S. (2011). Behavioral observation scales: An overview and implications for practice. Mental Health Aspects of Developmental Disabilities, 14(2), 101-107.

Kearney, C. A., & Albano, A. M. (2006). A review of behavioral assessment scales used to measure social functioning in children and adolescents. Clinical Psychology Review, 26(6), 731-754.

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