COMORBIDITY OF EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS
Melody Tankersley Kent State University
Timothy J. Landrum University of Nebraska-Kearney
Current classification schemes and empirical research have held that there are two dimensions of behavior: internalizing and externalizing (e.g., Achenbach, 1985). Internalizing behaviors are those that are directed inwardly, toward the self, and externalizing behaviors are directed outwardly, toward the environment. Emotional and behavioral disorders, then, are also delineated along these lines; internalizing disorders include anxiety, depression, fearfulness (or phobia), and social withdrawal, whereas externalizing disorders include those associated with conduct, hyperactivity, delinquency, and aggression.
In practice, assessment of emotional and behavioral disorders typically occurs for one of four reasons: screening, classification, identification for services, or intervention. Assessment is also an important component of research surrounding the emotional and behavioral disorders of children, as samples are typically chosen based on specific behavioral characteristics. Assessing the emotional and behavioral disorders of children and youth at each of these levels, however, has been problematic for educators and researchers for several reasons. One of the major frustrations regarding assessment in this area is that the federal definition of emotional and behavioral disorders (referred to as Serious Emotional Disturbance in federal regulations) is ambiguous and inconsistent (see Forness & Knitzer, 1990, for an in-depth discussion and analysis of problems associated with the federal definition). Other problematic issues of assessment of the emotional and behavioral disorders of children and adolescents involve the person pro-