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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #247
CE Offered: BACB
Synthesizing the Assessment and Treatment of Problem Behavior Literature
Sunday, May 26, 2019
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Hyatt Regency West, Ballroom Level, Regency Ballroom C
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Rachel Metras (Western New England University)
Discussant: Griffin Rooker (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
CE Instructor: Rachel Metras, M.A.

The assessment and treatment of problem behavior has long been a focus of behavior analytic research and practice. By conducting literature reviews, researchers connect relevant literature, synthesize empirical findings, and discover important relations that might not be detected by reading a series of empirical papers. In this way, literature reviews may help guide future research and practice. This symposium seeks to highlight and summarize literature on current assessment and treatment practices. The presenters will discuss: the extent to which descriptive assessment and functional analysis (FA) results correspond; the prevalence and use of synthesized contingencies in FAs; the scope and outcomes of different function-based treatments for multiply-maintained problem behavior; and the extent to which stimuli identified through a competing stimulus assessment have been incorporated into treatments for problem behavior. The potential merits and implications of the existing literature for assessment and treatment of problem behavior will be discussed, and recommendations for future research and practice will be provided.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Competing Stimuli, Descriptive Assessments, Functional Analysis, Synthesized Contingencies
Target Audience:

BCBAs, applied behavior analytic researchers, students of behavior analysis

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe the extent to which descriptive assessment and functional analysis (FA) results correspond, (2) identify the prevalence and uses of synthesized contingencies in published FA applications, (3) describe treatment outcomes for multiply-maintained problem behavior under different treatment conditions, and (4) discuss the uses of competing stimuli (as identified through competing stimulus assessments) in treatments of problem behavior.
Use of Descriptive Assessment and Correspondence to Functional Analysis: A Systematic Review
Bethany P. Contreras Young (Middle Tennessee State University ), SAVANNAH TATE (University of Missouri Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders), SungWoo Kahng (Rutgers University)
Abstract: Assessment is used to identify the function of problem behavior and leads to the development of effective treatment. Two types of direct assessment are often used to identify function of problem behavior: descriptive assessment (DA) and functional analysis (FA). Some researchers have suggested that DA is not as accurate as FA (Thompson & Iwata, 2007), yet many practitioners continue to use DA as a primary method for identifying variables maintaining problem behavior (Roscoe et al., 2015). We are conducting a systematic literature review to identify the use of DA and the correspondence between results of DA and FA. We conducted a thorough search of the existing literature and included any articles that reported the methods and results of a DA for problem behavior. For articles that included both a DA and FA, we calculated agreement in function between the two assessments per participant. Data analysis is still underway, but thus far we have found that the results of DA corresponded with results of FA in 59% of cases. In 22% of cases, results of DA yielded completely different results than FA. We will conduct additional analyses, including sensitivity and specificity analysis of the assessment results.
Nature and Scope of Synthesis in Functional Analysis and Treatment of Problem Behavior
JESSICA SLATON (Nashoba Learning Group), Gregory P. Hanley (Western New England University)
Abstract: Functional analysis (FA) of problem behavior typically includes the contingent delivery of a single reinforcer following problem behavior. However, the FA literature also includes examples of analyses that have delivered multiple reinforcers, arranged multiple establishing operations in one or more test conditions, or both. These analyses have been successfully applied under heterogeneous conditions over several decades and with various synthesized establishing operations and reinforcers, but their qualitative details, outcomes, and contributions to the literature have never been described in a comprehensive manner. The purpose of the current review was to: (a) identify articles that have reported the use of synthesized FAs or treatments; (b) describe the nature and scope of synthesis as it has been applied in the FA literature; (c) analyze outcomes of synthesized FAs and treatments to determine general benefits and disadvantages of synthesis; and (d) offer recommendations for future areas of research. We identified 55 articles with a total of 287 applications of synthesized FAs or treatments across 149 participants, published between 1995 and 2018. We found that 94% percent of all synthesized FAs were differentiated, and synthesized treatments indicated an average mean baseline reduction of 90.2% across all treatment applications.
A Review of Treatments for Problem Behavior Maintained by Multiple Reinforcers
ROBIN K. LANDA (Western New England University), Gregory P. Hanley (Western New England University)
Abstract: Functional analyses enable researchers to identify contingencies that influence problem behavior so that effective treatment can be developed. Hanley, Iwata, and McCord (2003) reported that problem behavior was controlled by multiple reinforcers in 15% of the 514 differentiated functional analyses published between 1961 and 2000 (a total of 77 analyses). The percentage of analyses showing control by multiple reinforcers increased to 24% of the 158 differentiated analyses published from 2001 to 2012 (an additional 38 analyses; Beavers, Iwata, & Lerman, 2013). These data combined with the recent awareness of synthesized contingencies operating in past analyses as well as the increase in prevalence of synthesized contingencies (Slaton & Hanley, 2018) underscore the importance of a technology for treating multiply-controlled problem behavior; however, the procedural details and outcomes of function-based treatments that involve multiple reinforcers have yet to be summarized. The goal of this review is to summarize and critically evaluate the procedures and outcomes of function-based treatments that have involved multiple suspected reinforcers for problem behavior.
Evolution of Competing Stimulus Assessments: A Quantitative Review
JENNIFER N. HADDOCK (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Kennedy Krieger Institute ), Louis P. Hagopian (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Abstract: We reviewed the literature on competing stimulus assessments (CSAs), which are pre-treatment assessments designed to systematically identify stimuli that displace problem behavior, ostensibly through reinforcer competition. Although CSA methods vary across studies, most share these features: (a) presentation of nominated stimuli, singly, across a series of trials, (b) a no stimulus control trial, and (c) measurement of problem behavior and stimulus engagement. Stimuli associated with clinically significant reductions in problem behavior in the CSA are frequently delivered noncontingently during treatments for automatically reinforced problem behavior or used as supplementary treatment components for socially reinforced problem behavior. In the majority of cases in which an extended analysis was performed following the CSA, reductions in problem behavior observed during the CSA produced similar reductions during treatment, regardless of topography or function of problem behavior, or whether the stimuli “matched” the stimulation thought to be produced by problem behavior. Implications for research and practice will be discussed.



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