Profiles of Emotional Disturbance Across the Five Characteristics of the Federal Definition

Matthew C. Lambert, Antonis Katsiyannis, Michael H. Epstein, Douglas Cullinan, Erkko Sointu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Ensuring the provision of a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to students qualified for services under the disability category of emotional disturbance (ED) has been both challenging and controversial. Examining this population in light of the five characteristics listed in the federal definition may provide useful insights to address needs and improve outcomes. The purpose of this study was to use latent class analysis to examine profiles across the five characteristics of the federal definition of ED for a sample of 491 students school-identified with ED. Key findings include that (a) students with ED are a heterogeneous group with distinct and qualitatively different subgroups; (b) latent classes representing the severe problems and the externalizing problems typologies tended to consist of younger students; (c) greater proportions of Black, Hispanic, and English-language learner students were found in the severe and externalizing latent classes; and (d) students in the externalizing and severe latent classes spent more time in special education classrooms and had worse ratings on social maladjustment. The findings highlight important implications for practice in regard to assessment, program differentiation, and preservice teacher training. Research limitations and directions for future research are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-235
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioral Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • assessment
  • behavior(s)
  • behavioral
  • emotional disturbance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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