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.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

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Symposium #356
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Advances in Precursor Analyses to Identify the Operant Functions of Behavior Disorders
Monday, May 31, 2010
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
217A (CC)
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Richard G. Smith (University of North Texas)
Discussant: Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida)
CE Instructor: Carin Thompson, M.Ed.
Abstract: A recent extension of functional analysis methodology is precursor assessment (e.g., Smith & Churchill, 2002), in which the operant function of severe behavior disorders is inferred based on the outcomes of a functional analysis of milder forms of behavior that are observed to occur just prior to the severe behavior. The papers in this symposium address issues related to the identification of precursor behaviors, the relationship between precursor and more severe behavior, and the utility of clinic-based precursor assessment for developing treatments that can be implemented and evaluated in natural environments.
Formal and Functional Characteristics of Precursors to Problem Behavior
TARA A. FAHMIE (University of Florida), Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida)
Abstract: Several studies have examined the relation between precursor and problem behavior in the context of assessment and treatment. Research has shown that precursor and more severe problem behaviors often are members of the same response class (e.g., Smith & Churchill, 2002) and that precursor responses may be substituted for high-risk severe behaviors in a functional analysis. The purpose of this study was to examine the relation between precursor and severe problem behavior along two dimensions: response topography and response function. Theoretical and practical implications, along with potential areas of future research, will be discussed.
Evaluation of Precursor Selection Methods During Structured Assessment
JENNIFER N. FRITZ (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Carly Compagnari (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Daniel LeSage (University of Houston-Clear Lake)
Abstract: Previous studies have shown that severe problem behavior often is preceded by relatively milder forms of behavior, and these “precursors” are often part of the same response class as the more severe behaviors. Precursors have been identified through descriptive analyses (DA), but this typically requires numerous occurrences of severe problem behavior before the response-response relationship is determined. Furthermore, initial descriptions and definitions of precursors assessed in DAs have largely relied on caregiver report or informal observation. Only one study to date has empirically identified precursors using a trial-based assessment. The trial-based assessment was able to accurately identify precursors that were in the same response class as the more severe problem behavior, as shown in subsequent functional analyses (FA), while minimizing risks posed by the severe behaviors. One limitation of that study, however, was that not all precursors initially identified during the trial-based assessment were observed during the subsequent FA. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to evaluate different data analysis methods in order to identify precursors likely to occur during the FA. To date, three individuals diagnosed with developmental disabilities have participated and the various methods have yielded different results. Additional data will be collected.
Progressing From Functional Analysis of Precursor Behavior to Treatment of Self-Injury
JOSEPH DRACOBLY (University of North Texas), Richard G. Smith (University of North Texas), Nathan Lyon (University of North Texas), Claire Anderson (University of North Texas), Christine Marie Mosso (University of North Texas)
Abstract: An evaluation of the utility of assessing and treating severe problem behavior through precursor functional analysis was completed. Previous research has suggested that the analysis of precursor behaviors may be an effective, albeit indirect method of assessing severe problem behavior. However, previous studies have not included ongoing measurement of the problem behavior in the natural environment, which permits a direct evaluation of the effectiveness of precursor-based interventions to treat problem behavior. In the current study, ongoing measurement of problem behavior in two settings in the participant’s natural environment was conducted for the duration of the study. A precursor to self-injurious behavior was identified using descriptive assessment and conditional probability analyses. An analogue precursor functional analysis was then conducted. Subsequently, a treatment in which precursor behavior produced the maintaining variable identified in precursor assessment was implemented in the natural environment. Treatment was implemented in one of the natural settings, resulting in increases in measures the precursor behavior and decreases in self-injury in both the treatment setting as well as the second setting in which observations occurred.



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