ABA was incorporated in 1974, the year in which it held its first annual meeting, which was in Chicago, Illinois. In 1978, ABA added the subtitle "An International Organization" to its name in response to a growing membership from countries outside the United States. In 1980, the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis was created to provide foundational support to ABA. The immediate past president of .ABA serves as president of the Society. ABA's central office was housed on the campus of Western Michigan University from its inception until 2002, when it moved to ABA's own building in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The members of the original 1974 organization committee (which later became the executive council) were Sidney Bijou, James Dinsmoor, Israel Goldiamond, Bill Hopkins, Neil Kent, Kenneth Lloyd, Richard Malott, Gerald Mertens, Jack Michael, Roger Ulrich, and Scott Wood (Peterson, 1978).

Since its founding, ABA has held an annual convention in cities across the United States and in Canada. In November 2001, it sponsored its first international meeting, in Venice, Italy.

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