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.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #7
CE Offered: BACB
Human Infancy as a Place of Behavioral Discovery and Application
Saturday, May 27, 2023
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Capitol Ballroom 1-3
Area: DEV; Domain: Translational
Chair: Thomas J. Waltz (Eastern Michigan University)
CE Instructor: Benjamin N. Witts, Ph.D.
Abstract: Human infancy is an exciting time. The infant’s behavioral repertoire is emerging and undergoing rapid transformation, as are the repertoires of those whose behavior is interlocked with the infant’s. The behavioral repertoires that participate in everyday life are formed during these months. Influential developmental variables can be shared, as when considering the shared cultural aspects of the infant’s contextual factors. Yet behaviorists have done objectively little work in this area. Topics such as nutrition (e.g., breastfeeding and breastfeeding difficulties), safety (e.g., infant abusive head trauma), and communication (e.g., crying) receive little attention compared to their developmental counterparts in autism therapy (e.g., food refusal, self-injury, verbal behavior, respectively). Theoretical models of behavior hold promise for promoting translational research, developmental research over the lifespan, and on intervention research and application during the first year of life. This symposium presents three unique perspectives on topics of interest to those who interact with infants.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Baby, Development, Parent, Translation
Target Audience: Practitioners, educators, students. Prerequisites: knowledge of general behavioral philosophy; knowledge of general psychology
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) discriminate types of methodological approaches to infancy research; (2) contrast behavioral and traditional accounts of developmental stages; (3) identify multiple influential variables that could account for social events in infancy.
The Evolution of Shaken Baby Syndrome Research: We Need to Take a Few Steps Back
JENNIFER LYNNE BRUZEK (The University of Alabama in Huntsville)
Abstract: Estimates of incidence vary, but it is suspected that there are approximately 13,000 cases of shaken baby syndrome reported annually in the US. The mechanisms involved in these events are difficult to study under naturalistic conditions due to our inability to control the infant cry, reactivity, and ethical concerns, among other issues. Analogue studies have assisted with efforts in understanding the infant caregiver interaction more broadly. However, outside of the medical field, very little analogue work has been conducted to understand the variables that contribute to abuse specifically. Moreover, our current understanding of the infant-caregiver relation is largely based on descriptive and correlational analyses. In this talk, I will emphasize the current research gaps in this area and the need for replication, with tighter experimental control, of the work that has been conducted. Additionally, I will propose methodological models that will shed light on the next steps necessary to continue refining our knowledge of what leads to, and, more importantly, how to prevent infant abuse.

Considerations for Behavior Analysts on Delineating Between Developmental Milestones, Stages, and Cusps

GENEVIEVE M DEBERNARDIS (University of Nevada, Reno)

Developmental theory is the foundation for how child development is predominately understood by our science as well as our society. This is of special significance for practitioners, as these sets of assumptions impact treatment decision-making. However, developmental theories from mainstream developmental psychology and behavior science are separate and distinct. Yet, an incomplete understanding of these theories may lead to misconceptions on the developmental process, which, in turn, may influence expectations on what are perceived to be reasonable standards in development. This paper will provide a review of dominant theories from mainstream developmental psychology and behavior science, and delineate between developmental milestones, stages, and cusps. The implications of conflicting theories and how they affect societal expectations for the child-caregiver dyad will be examined. Considerations for practitioners on how these theories impact decision-making on when and how certain developmental goals are met will be discussed.


A Field-Theory Account of Infant Abusive Head Trauma During Crying

BENJAMIN N. WITTS (St. Cloud State University)

Accounting for the participating variables present during an abusive episode featuring infant crying will lead to a richer understanding of the event and, therefore, will better inform prevention work. As a social event, abusive episodes necessitate at least two individuals, and thus requires a multi-perspective analysis. As an episode typically taking place during early infancy, infant abusive head trauma related to crying must account for individual biology, psychological history, current stimulus and response functions, and social history with respect to each other. Kantor’s field theory approach to behavior, interbehaviorism, considers such factors as participatory in the event. In this talk, I will lay out an initial sketch of potential participatory factors that will likely need exploration in building an account of the abusive episode. In doing so, attention will be given to connecting these elements to prevention work.




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