At a glance

Behaviour is how someone acts. It is what a person does to make something happen, to make something change or to keep things the same. Behaviour is a response to things that are happening:

  • internally - thoughts and feelings
  • externally - the environment, including other people.

Observing behaviour is the easy part. It is understanding why someone does what they do that is much more complicated.

… workers [need] to understand behaviour as behaviour rather than ‘illness’.

- A person with lived experience of a mental health condition


Behaviour serves a purpose and has a reason, including:

  • communication - through use of body language, facial expressions, gestures and silence
  • function - to help meet a need, attract attention, gain an internal or sensory sensation, access an item or activity, or get away from something.

The key to understanding behaviour is to understand why it is occurring, what is being communicated or what is needed.


What is the function of behaviour?
This is a short video explaining the function of behaviour.
Type: Video | Closed captions
Viewing time: 1:22 minutes
Produced by: EliteBehaviorMedia

Understanding Behaviour – ‘Behaviour is Communication’
This is a brief overview of behaviour as a way of communicating a person’s needs or wants in response to an environment. Behaviour allows communication ‘beyond words’.
Type: Web page
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Produced by: Creating Connections Australia

Current as at: Monday 20 January 2020
Contact page owner: Mental Health