Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #123
CE Offered: BACB
Synthesizing Research on the Assessment and Treatment of Problem Behavior
Saturday, May 28, 2022
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Meeting Level 2; Room 252A
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Megan A. Boyle (Missouri State University)
Discussant: S. Shanun Kunnavatana (Easterseals UCP North Carolina & Virginia)
CE Instructor: Megan A. Boyle, Ph.D.

Applied behavior analysts have developed a variety of methods to successfully address problem behavior (Carr et al., 2000; Tiger et al., 2008). Although much is known about best practice in assessment and treatment of problem behavior (e.g., develop treatments based on results of functional behavior assessments, program for generalization, progress from a less to more intrusive treatment approach), many questions remain unanswered. For example, how prevalent is multiply controlled problem behavior, and how does inclusion of multiple topographies in the functional class influence the identification of multiple control? Further, although behavior analysts have amassed over 40 years’ worth of research on assessing and treating problem behavior, it is difficult to make broad statements because of the general lack of synthesis of research. For example, to what extent do the effects of interventions consisting of functional communication training generalize across settings, individuals, time, and conditions that consist of less favorable reinforcement situations than during treatment? Thus, the purpose of this symposium is to present the audience with four talks that synthesize research on the assessment and treatment of problem behavior, with topics including multiple control, caregiver involvement, generalization and maintenance, and punishment.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Caregiver involvement, Generalization, Literature review, Multiple control
Target Audience:

Audience members should be familiar with functional analysis, the functions of behavior, and common approaches to treating problem behavior.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Identify issues with combining multiple topographies into a single response class during a functional analysis (2) Describe the importance of and the current state of research on functional communication training in regards to including data on maintenance and generalization (3) Describe the importance and prevalence of caregiver involvement during treatments for problem behavior (4) Discuss the state of the use of punishment in behavior-analytic treatments for problem behavior
Multiply Controlled Problem Behavior: An Update on Prevalence and Response-Class Conventions in Functional Analysis
MEGAN A. BOYLE (Missouri State University), Laurn Gaskill (Ozark), Taylor Annalise Janota (Missouri State University)
Abstract: It is best practice in the field of behavior analysis to treat problem behavior based on outcomes of a functional behavior assessment. At least some portion of problem behavior is multiply controlled, or maintained by more than one reinforcement contingency. Beavers and Iwata (2011) found that 17% of participants’ problem behavior was multiply controlled and further reported that the majority of cases of multiple control (87.5%) consisted of inclusion of multiple topographies in the functional class during functional analysis (FA), compared to 12.5% of cases of multiple control with a single response in the functional class. When behavior is multiply controlled, clinicians are faced with logistical challenges in terms of incorporating all functions into treatment. Thus, it is important to continue to investigate the prevalence of multiple control and the degree to which it may be artificially identified in FAs due to including multiple members in the functional class. We identified and coded 143 articles that conducted FAs that allowed for the assessment of multiple control. The majority (68%) of FAs in our review combined topographies in the FA, while only 18% assessed a single topography. Unlike Beavers and Iwata (2011), we found a higher prevalence of multiple control (33%).

CANCELED: Functional Communication Training: An Evaluation of Maintenance and Generalization Across Studies

JOSEPH LAMBERT (Vanderbilt University), Cassandra Standish (Vanderbilt University), Jennifer Ledford (Vanderbilt University), Olivia Pierce (Vanderbilt), Natalie Pak (Vanderbilt), Brianna Campbell (Vanderbilt)

Functional Communication Training (FCT) is an intervention aimed to reduce problem behavior and increase mands. While FCT is often shown to be effective in clinical settings when every mand is reinforced, the degree to which established effects maintain or generalize is unclear. Relatedly, there are no universally accepted procedures for evaluating either phenomenon. The purpose of Study 1 was to provide a review of the literature to determine how researchers have measured maintenance and generalization across FCT studies and to evaluate the extent to which they used formalized mastery criteria to determine when to terminate specific treatment phases. The purpose of Study 2 was to standardize a method for comparing across studies the degree to which FCT treatment effects generalize and maintain in the absence of intervention and to employ this method to a subset of data identified by Study 1. Results indicated great procedural variability across studies in terms of both intervention and measurement. Results also indicated while most FCT evaluations demonstrated the intervention was often effective and these effects most often maintained and/or generalized, fewer assessments demonstrated maintenance and generalization in conditions in which baseline rates of reinforcer access had been decreased to any meaningful degree.

Parental Involvement in Problem Behavior Research: A Scoping Review
Jessica L Becraft (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Samantha Hardesty (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Lesley A. Shawler (Southern Illinois University), Matthew L. Edelstein (Kennedy Krieger Institute), KISSEL JOSEPH GOLDMAN (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Abstract: Parents are often a critical element in developing treatments for the problem behavior of children. Parents implement treatment components at home, provide measurements or updates to clinicians, and decide ultimately whether to continue with treatment. Given that treatments to reduce problem behavior should be evidence-based, clinicians likely consult similar research for guidance on parent involvement. To determine recommendations and procedures clinicians are likely to encounter, studies published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA) from 2009-2020 that included children as participants and the assessment and/or treatment of problem behavior as a dependent variable were reviewed. Studies were coded on child age, presence of an intellectual/developmental disability, setting, type of parent input, implications for parents, level of direct parent involvement, and social validity measures. Parent input and implications for parents were included in about 50-60% of studies. However, parent implementation, data collection, social validity, training, and data were included in fewer than 13% of studies, suggesting key parent-related variables are underrepresented in JABA. Informed by these results, considerations for parent inclusion and future areas for related research are discussed.
A Systematic Review of the Use of Punishment
KELSIE WRIGHT (McNeese State University), Jennifer Nicole Haddock (University of Kansas)
Abstract: The Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s Professional and Ethical Compliance Code (“The Code”) for Behavior Analysts requires behavior analysts to conduct functional assessments prior to implementing behavior-reduction procedures (section 3.01) and cites four considerations for the use of punishment (section 4.08). The latter can be summarized as defaulting to and exhausting all reinforcement-based procedures before implementing punishment (except in severe cases); supplementing punishment with reinforcement; and, increasing training, supervision, oversight, and termination criteria when punishment is used. The current systematic review examined individual participant data from studies that evaluated the use of punishment for socially maintained problem behavior using within-subject designs. Twenty-seven datasets (from 25 participants in 16 studies) met inclusion criteria. Participant characteristics, topographies of problem behavior, treatment parameters, and outcomes were examined. Often, reinforcement-based procedures supplemented the use of punishment, and the most commonly reported punishment procedures included response blocking, overcorrection, contingent restraint, and timeout from positive reinforcement. The small, diverse sample precluded analysis of mediating or moderating effects of any given independent variable on outcomes. Overall, results suggest that, to date, the Code’s considerations have been inadequately modeled in the research literature. Recommendations for research and practice will be discussed.



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