Using Interval-Based Systems to Measure Behavior in Early Childhood Special Education and Early Intervention

Justin D. Lane, Jennifer R. Ledford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The purpose of this article is to summarize the current literature on the accuracy and reliability of interval systems using data from previously published experimental studies that used either human observations of behavior or computer simulations. Although multiple comparison studies provided mathematical adjustments or modifications to interval systems, recommendations were often noted as impractical or inefficient for use by early intervention/early childhood special education (EI/ECSE) practitioners. Based on the review of previous comparisons, none of the interval systems were accurate estimates of frequency; thus, event recording should be used to measure counts of behavior in early childhood settings. Momentary time sampling (MTS) may be appropriate and feasible for estimating duration, but only if random error is considered; partial (PIR) and whole interval recording (WIR) systems are inappropriate unless a statistical correction procedure is devised. Recommendations for using interval-based systems in applied research with young children with disabilities are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-93
Number of pages11
JournalTopics in Early Childhood Special Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Completion of this article was partially supported by funds provided to the first author through the Jan L. Branham Scholarship for Autism Education at the University of Georgia.


  • experimental studies
  • focus on measurement/instrument/test design
  • research methodologies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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