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Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Course Code
Zachariah Campbell

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Chapter 13
Understanding Problem Behaviors Through Functional Assessment
Functional assessment conducting an assessment of the three-
term contingency to determine the antecedent events that evoke the
behavior and the reinforcing consequences that maintain it; identifying
these variables before treating a problem behavior is called functional
Defining Functional Assessment
Functional assessment is the process of gathering information about
the antecedents and consequences that are functionally related to the
occurrence of a problem behavior
It provides information that helps you determine why a problem
behavior is occurring
Also provides detailed information about antecedent stimuli, including
the time and place of the behavior, people present when the behavior
occurs, any environmental events immediately preceding the behavior,
and the frequency of the target behavior
oThis information will help you identify the antecedents that
have stimulus control over the behavior and the reinforcing
consequences that maintain the behavior
Also provides other types of information that are important for
developing appropriate behaviors for problem behaviors, including the
existence of alternative behaviors that may be functionally equivalent
to the problem behavior, motivational behaviors (establishing
operations that influence the effectiveness of stimuli as reinforcers and
punishers), stimuli that function as reinforcers for the person, and the
history of previous treatments and their outcomes
oTable 13-1 page 277
Functions of Problem Behaviors
Social positive reinforcement
oPositive reinforcement mediated by another person
oWhen a positively reinforcing consequence is delivered by
another person after the target behavior
oMay involve attention, access to activities, or tangibles provided
by another person
Social negative reinforcement
oNegative reinforcement mediated by another person

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oWhen another person terminates an aversive interaction, task,
or activity after the occurrence of a target behavior
Automatic positive reinforcement
oReinforcing consequence occurs as an automatic consequence of
the behavior itself
oSensory stimulation etc.
Automatic negative reinforcement
oOccurs when the target behavior automatically reduces or
eliminates an aversive stimulus as a consequence of the
oEx. Closing the window to block a cold draft
oExample of a problem behavior that may be maintained by this
binge eating when person has unpleasant emotions, binge
eating temporarily decreases the unpleasant emotions, thus
reinforcing binge eating
Functional Assessment Methods
Indirect methods
oBehavioral interviews or questionnaires are used to gather
information from the person exhibiting the problem behavior or
others who know this person well
oAlso known as informant assessment methods because an
informant (the client or others) is providing information in
response to assessment questions
Easy to conduct and do not take much time
Number of interview formats and questionnaires are
available for use
Informants must rely on their memory of the events; thus
information may be incorrect as a result of forgetting or
Therefore, researchers suggest using multiple functional
assessment methods to produce the more accurate
oBecause of their convenience, they are used commonly
Interview is the most common method generate
information that is clear and objective, no inferences or
Goal of a behavioral interview is to generate information
on the problem behaviors, antecedents, consequences, and
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