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Chapter 13

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Zachariah Campbell

Chapter 13 – Understanding Problem Behaviours through Functional Assessment Functional Assessment: conducting an assessment of the three-term contingency to determine the antecedent events that evoke the behaviour and the reinforcing consequences that maintain it. 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 behaviour. It provides information about why a problem behaviour is occurring. Antecedent stimuli:  Time and place of behaviour  People present when behaviour occurs  Any environmental events immediately preceding the behaviour.  Frequency (and other dimensions of the behaviour. Categories of Information from a Functional Assessment  Problem behaviours: an objective description of the behaviours that make up the problem.  Antecedents: objective description of environmental events preceding the problem behaviour – aspects of the physical environment and behaviour of other people  Consequences: description of environmental events that follow the problem behaviour – aspects of physical environment and behaviour of other people  Alternative behaviours: information on desirable behaviours in the person’s repertoire that may reinforced to compete with problem behaviour  Motivational variables: information on environmental events that may function as establishing or abolishing operations to influence the effectiveness of reinforcers and punishers for problem and alternative behaviours  Potential reinforcers: information on environmental events (including physical stimuli and behaviour of other people) that may function as reinforcers and be used in a treatment program  Previous interventions: information of interventions from past and their effects Functions of Problem Behaviours Social Positive Reinforcement Def.: when a positively influencing consequence is delivered by another person after the target behaviour.  May involve attention, access to activities, tangibles from another person Social Negative Reinforcement Def.: when another person terminates an aversive interaction, task, or activity after the occurrence of a target behaviour and, as result, behaviour is more likely to occur.  Example: student who bangs her head when told to do a task may escape from task as a result. Automatic Positive Reinforcement Def.: when the reinforcing consequence of a target behaviour is not mediated by another person but occurs as an automatic consequence of the behaviour itself.  Example: child with autism may rock in their seat because the behaviours produce reinforcing sensory stimulation. Automatic Positive Reinforcement Def.: when the target behaviour automatically reduces/eliminates an aversive stimulus as a consequence of the behaviour and the behaviour is strengthened. Not mediated by another person.  Example: binge eating – binge eating may be maintained by the reduction in unpleasant emotional responses that were present before eating. When the person experiences strong unpleasant emotions, binge eating temporarily decreases the unpleasant emotions. Functional Assessment Methods Indirect Methods Behavioural interviews and questionnaires are used to get information from the person exhibiting the problem behaviour and from others who know the person well.  Also known as informant assessment methods Advantage: they are easy to conduct and don’t take much time. There are many interview formats and questionnaires that already exist. Disadvantage: they rely on the informants’ memories of the event. This means that the assessment may be biased or incorrect. A good behavioural interview is structured to get information from the informant that is clear and objective.  Information includes: problem behaviour, antecedents, and consequences – without inferences or interpretation Goal of behavioural interview is to generate a hypothesis about the controlling variables for the problem. Once an interviewer can find a reliable pattern of antecedents and consequences, the interviewer can develop a hypothesis about the antecedents that have stimulus control over the problem behaviour and the reinforcer that maintains it. Researchers suggest using multiple assessment methods to counteract disadvantages. Direct Observation Methods Direct observation = someone observes and records the antecedents and consequences each time the problem behaviour occurs. The observer can be: the person experiencing the behaviour or another person associated with them. Observation usually takes place in natural environment unless the person is in a treatment setting. ABC observation (another name for direct observation assessment): goal of ABC observation is to record the immediate antecedents and consequences typically associated with the problem behaviour under normal conditions. Advantage of ABC: an observer is recording the antecedents and consequences as they occur instead of relying on someone’s memory. This means that it’s more likely to
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