McGrew (1996) concluded that evidence supported a hierarchical model with four distinct domains: (1) motor or physical competence; (2) independent living skills, daily living skills, or practical intelligence; (3) cognitive competence, communication, or conceptual intelligence; and (4) social competence or social intelligence. Widaman and McGrew (1996) further argued that agreement on a common set of terms for domains of adaptive behavior (in contrast to the use of “or” as above) would contribute to a better consensus on the structure of adaptive behavior.

The review by Thompson et al. (1999) is the most recent summary of studies using factor analysis; it concludes that adaptive behavior is a multidimensional construct. The three most common dimensions found were in these broad categories: (1) personal independence, (2) responsibility, i.e., meeting expectations of others or getting along with others in social contexts, and (3) cognitive/academic. Physical/developmental and vocational/community dimensions were found less often. Thompson et al. concluded: “No single adaptive-maladaptive behavior assessment instrument completely measures the entire range of adaptive and maladaptive behavior dimensions. . . It is clear that different scales place different levels of emphasis on different adaptive behavior domains. No one instrument produced a factor structure that included all of the domains” that were identified by the American Association on Mental Retardation (1992).

Breadth of Domains. The domains assessed by adaptive behavior scales, and thus the individual items included on them, depend in part on the context, target age group, and purpose of the measure. Thus, considerable variation has been found in the content covered by different scales (Holman & Bruininks, 1985; Thompson et al., 1999). Measures used in schools may not need a work domain, for example, if students are too young for employment or the school does not have a work experience program. Conversely, adult scales would not need items on school-related behaviors (Kamphaus, 1987a). In their review, Thompson et al. (1999) suggest that this incongruity reflects the problem noted by Clausen (1972) and Zigler et al. (1984), that adaptive behavior lacks



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