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.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Symposium #64
CE Offered: BACB
Sexual Behavior SIG Symposium: A Behavior Analytic Perspective on Gender and Sexuality
Saturday, May 23, 2015
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
204A (CC)
Area: CSE/AUT; Domain: Theory
Chair: Brigid McCormick (Instructional ABA Consultants)
Discussant: Sorah Stein (Partnership for Behavior Change)
CE Instructor: Brigid McCormick, M.A.
Abstract: The science of behavior analysis has been applied to a myriad of human behaviors, including those of a sexual nature. The purpose of this presentation is to provide multiple examples of how sexual behavior and gender identity can be assessed and treated using a behavior-analytic approach. This symposium underscores the need for behavior analysts to provide individualized and least-restrictive interventions to influence the occurrence of sexual behaviors that are inappropriate in topography and/or occur in inappropriate environments.
Keyword(s): autism, sex education, sexual behavior, sexuality
Gender Through a Behavior Analytic Lens: Who You Are, What You Do, and Why You Do It
CHELSEY BROWN (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology), Fawna Stockwell (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)
Abstract: What is your gender? To many individuals this may seem to be a simple question, but the concept of gender is much more complex than is typically discussed. Current biological and cognitive theories of gender ignore the potential independence of biological sex, gender identity, and gender expression. Many people assume that a person’s gender identity is the same as their biological sex, which is labeled at birth, and that everyone automatically identifies with the gender assigned to them. However, we assert that gender is largely a social construct, and the behavioral characteristics related to gender identity and gender roles are influenced by environmental variables, not only by biological characteristics. The goal of this presentation is to provide a behavioral account of the development of gender identity by exploring how behavioral processes, such as respondent and operant conditioning and derived relational responding, influence gender identity and gender-related behaviors. In addition to providing a pragmatic account for the formation of gender identity, behavioral processes can provide insight into the stress that an individual may experience when their gender identity does not match the gender label assigned to them. Anyone interested in taking a deeper look at gender and broadening their perspective of this topic, in both a professional and personal context, is invited to attend.
Sexual Behavior and Individuals with Autism and Developmental Disabilities: A Review of the Research and Interventions
SEAN FIELD (Western Michigan University), Steven Sparks (Western Michigan University), Christopher Walmsley (Western Michigan University), Jessica E. Frieder (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: People with autism spectrum disorders, as well as those with other significant developmental disabilities, may be at increased risk of engaging in risky sexual behavior both relating to their selves and others. Moreover, despite awareness of this issue, there is a lack of research aimed at addressing the increased vulnerability of this population. This talk will provide attendees with a review of current literature related to sexuality education and safety for those with autism and other developmental disabilities. Furthermore, several procedures, including behavioral skills training, sex education, and video modeling, and their outcome measures will be presented as a preliminary evaluation of the effectiveness of sex education training for individuals diagnosed with autism.
Environmental Barriers to Responsible Sexual Behavior & Possible Solutions
NICHOLAS SCHREIBER (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology), Matt Gibson (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)
Abstract: Individuals do not always engage in safer sexual behaviors, even though these practices strongly promote long-term health. The first line of intervention often involves presentation of information about how or why a specific behavior should be practiced, and this is often not sufficient to alter responding. The potential consequences of unsafe sexual behaviors include transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and unwanted pregnancy. By examining environmental variables such as competing contingencies at both individual and cultural levels, it is possible to understand some reasons why unsafe sexual behaviors occur. These may include “thrill seeking,” deficits in skills and knowledge, and costs associated with engaging in safer sex. Specific practices covered in this presentation will include STI testing, disclosing STI status to sexual partner(s), and using condoms and other birth control methods. Current research on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) will also be presented as it relates to reducing HIV infection, as it is a relatively new and potentially promising option for sexually active individuals. Examples in this presentation will include a range of ages, cultures, genders, sexual identities, and skill levels to illustrate the need for context-specific intervention to promote sexually healthy behaviors.
Fighting a Hidden Battle: How Behavior Analysis Can Help to Prevent Sexual Assault in the U.S. Military
DERIC E. TONEY (University of Nevada, Reno), Ann M. Sturtz (ORL ), Fawna Stockwell (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)
Abstract: Sexual assault can have long lasting and dramatic effects on its victims, including depression, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Santiago, McCall-Perez, Gorcey, & Beigal, 1985). One population at high risk of experiencing sexual assault are those in the United States military. In 2012, roughly 26,000 members of the military are victims of sexual assault, 7.3% of its total population (Department of Defense, 2013). These numbers continue to increase, with the number of victims who are woman being roughly twice that of men. Currently, interventions for preventing sexual assault in the military consist of one 3-hour classroom discussion including two video trainings at the onset of the service member’s career ( Given the prevalence of this issue, the current approach may be improved, and behavior analysts are in a unique position to help. We have aided in education, safety, and training interventions in a variety of areas and for a variety of populations, and these methods can be extended to prevention of sexual assault in the military. This presentation will review current consent-focused educational programs with a focus on sexual assault prevention, and suggest how these can be potentially adapted for effective implementation by the military. disabilities. Furthermore, several procedures, including behavioral skills training, sex education, and video modeling, and their outcome measures will be presented as a preliminary evaluation of the effectiveness of sex education training for individuals diagnosed with autism.



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