Advertisement

Behavior Analysis in Practice

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 54–72 | Cite as

Functional Assessment of Problem Behavior: Dispelling Myths, Overcoming Implementation Obstacles, and Developing New Lore

  • Gregory P. Hanley
Perspectives

Abstract

Hundreds of studies have shown the efficacy of treatments for problem behavior based on an understanding of its function. Assertions regarding the legitimacy of different types of functional assessment vary substantially across published articles, and best practices regarding the functional assessment process are sometimes difficult to cull from the empirical literature or from published discussions of the behavioral assessment process. A number of myths regarding the functional assessment process, which appear to be pervasive within different behavior-analytic research and practice communities, will be reviewed in the context of an attempt to develop new lore regarding the functional assessment process. Frequently described obstacles to implementing a critical aspect of the functional assessment process, the functional analysis, will be reviewed in the context of solutions for overcoming them. Finally, the aspects of the functional assessment process that should be exported to others versus those features that should remain the sole technological property of behavior analysts will be discussed.

Keywords

autism descriptive assessment functional analysis functional assessment indirect assessment intellectual disabilities open-ended interviews problem behavior 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Baer, D. M., Wolf, M. M., & Risley, T. R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 91–97.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2012). Fourth edition task list. Retrieved from http://www.bacb.com/Downloadfiles/TaskListZBACB_Fourth_Edition_Task_List.pdf
  3. Bijou, S. W., Peterson, R. F., & Ault, M. H. (1968). A method to integrate descriptive and experimental field studies at the level of data and empirical concepts. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 175–191.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Bloom, S. E., Iwata, B. A., Fritz, J. N., Roscoe, E. M., & Carreau, A. B. (2011). Classroom application of a trial-based functional analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 19–31.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowman, L. G., Fisher, W. W., Thompson, R. H., & Piazza, C. C. (1997). On the relation of mands and the function of destructive behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 30, 251–265.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Carr, E. G., & Durand, V. (1985). Reducing behavior problems through functional communication training. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 18, 111–126.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Carr, E. G., Taylor, J. C., & Robinson, S. (1991). The effects of severe behavior problems in children on the teaching behavior of adults. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 24, 523–535.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. Chapman, S., Fisher, W., Piazza, C. C., & Kurtz, P. F. (1993). Functional assessment and treatment of life-threatening drug ingestion in a dually diagnosed youth. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26, 255–256.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. Conners, J., Iwata, B. A., Kahng, S., Hanley, G. P., Worsdell, A. S., & Thompson, R. H. (2000). Differential responding in the presence and absence of discriminative stimuli during multielement functional analyses. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33, 299–308.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Derby, K. M., Wacker, D. P., Sasso, G., Steege, M., Northup, J., Cigrand, K., & Asmus, J. (1992). Brief functional assessments techniques to evaluate aberrant behavior in an outpatient setting: A summary of 79 cases. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 25, 713–721.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  11. Desrochers, M. N., Hile, M. G., & Williams-Mosely, T. L. (1997). Survey of functional assessment procedures used with individuals who display mental retardation and severe problem behaviors. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 101, 535–546.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Durand, V. M., & Crimmins, D. B. (1985). The Motivation Assessment Scale: An administration manual. Unpublished manuscript, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, NY.Google Scholar
  13. Ellingson, S. A., Miltenberger, R. G., & Long, E. S. (1999). A survey of the use of functional assessment procedures in agencies serving individuals with developmental disabilities. Behavioral Interventions, 14, 187–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ellingson, S. A., Miltenberger, R. G., Stricker, J., Galensky, T. L., & Garlinghouse, M. (2000). Functional assessment and intervention for challenging behaviors in the classroom by general classroom teachers. Journal of Positive Behavioral Interventions, 2, 85–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Emerson, E., Reeves, D., Thompson, S., & Henderson, D. (1996). Time-based lag sequential analysis and the functional assessment of challenging behaviour. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 40, 260–274.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Fahmie, T. A., & Iwata, B. A. (2011). Topographical and functional properties of precursors to severe problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 993–997.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. Fisher, W. W., Adelinis, J. D., Thompson, R. H., Worsdell, A. S., & Zarcone, J. R. (1998). Functional analysis and treatment of destructive behavior maintained by termination of “don’t” (and symmetrical “do”) requests. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 31, 339–356.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. Fisher, W. W., Lindauer, S. E., Alterson, C. J., & Thompson, R. H. (1998). Assessment and treatment of destructive behavior maintained by stereotypic object manipulation. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 31, 513–527.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Grace, N. C., Thompson, R., & Fisher, W. W. (1996). The treatment of covert self-injury through contingencies on response products. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 29, 239–242.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  20. Gunter, P. L., Denny, R. K., Shores, R. E., Reed, T. M., Jack, S. L., & Nelson, M. (1994). Teacher escape, avoidance, and counter-control behaviors: Potential responses to disruptive and aggressive behaviors of students with severe behavior disorders. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 3, 211–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hagopian, L. P., Fisher, W. W., Thompson, R. H., Owen-DeSchryver, J., Iwata, B. A., & Wacker, D. P. (1997). Toward the development of structured criteria for interpretation of functional analysis data. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 30, 313–326.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. Hall, V. R., Axelrod, S., Tyler, L., Grief, E., Jones, F. C., & Robertson, R. (1972). Modification of behavior problems in the home with a parent as observer and experimenter. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 5, 53–64.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Hanley, G. P. (2010). Prevention and treatment of severe problem behavior. In E. Mayville & J. Mulick (Eds.), Behavioral foundations of autism intervention (pp. 233–256). New York: Sloman Publishing.Google Scholar
  24. Hanley, G. P. (2011). Functional analysis. In J. Luiselli (Ed.), Teaching and behavior support for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder: A “how to” practitioner’s guide. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hanley, G. P., Heal, N. A., Ingvarsson, E. T., & Tiger, J. H. (2007). Evaluation of a class-wide teaching program for developing preschool life skills. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40, 277–300.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. Hanley, G. P., Iwata, B. A., & McCord, B. E. (2003). Functional analysis of problem behavior: A review. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 36, 147–185.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. Hanley, G. P., Iwata, B. A., & Thompson, R. H. (2001). Reinforcement schedule thinning following treatment with functional communication training. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 34, 17–38.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. Herscovitch, B., Roscoe, E. M., Libby, M. E., Bourret, J. C., & Ahearn, W. H. (2009). A procedure for identifying precursors to problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42, 697–702.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  29. Hineline P. N., & Groeling, S. M. (2010). Behavior analytic language and interventions for autism. In E. Mayville & J. Mulick (Eds.), Behavioral foundations of autism intervention (pp. 35–56). New York: Sloman Publishing.Google Scholar
  30. Iwata, B. A., Dorsey, M. F., Slifer, K. J., Bauman, K. E., & Richman, G. S. (1994). Toward a functional analysis of self-injury. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 197–209. (Reprinted from Analysis and Intervention in Developmental Disabilities, 2, 3–20, 1982).CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  31. Iwata, B. A., & Dozier, C. L. (2008). Clinical application of functional analysis methodology. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 1, 3–9.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  32. Iwata, B. A., Duncan, B. A., Zarcone, J. R., Lerman, D. C., & Shore, B. A. (1994). A sequential, test-control methodology for conducting functional analyses of self-injurious behavior. Behavior Modification, 18, 289–306.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Iwata, B. A., Pace, G. M., Cowdery, G. E., & Miltenberger, R. G. (1994). What makes extinction work: An analysis of procedural form and function. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 131–144.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  34. Iwata, B. A., Pace, G. M., Dorsey, M. F., Zarcone, J. R., Vollmer, T. R., Smith, R. G., & Willis, K. D. (1994). The functions of self-injurious behavior: An experimental-epidemiological analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 215–240.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. Iwata, B. A., Wallace, M. D., Kahng, S., Lindberg, J. S., Roscoe, E. M., Conners, J., Hanley, G. P., Thompson, R. H., & Worsdell, A. S. (2000). Skill acquisition in the implementation of functional analysis methodology. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33, 181–194.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  36. Iwata, B. A., Wong, S. E., Riordan, M. M., Dorsey, M. F., & Lau, M. M. (1982). Assessment and training of clinical interviewing skills: Analogue analysis and field replication. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 15, 191–203.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Jin, C. S., Hanley, G. P., & Beaulieu, L. (in press). An individualized and comprehensive approach to treating sleep problems in young children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.Google Scholar
  38. Kahng, S., Abt, K. A., & Schonbachler, H. E. (2001). Assessment and treatment of low-rate high-intensity problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 34, 225–228.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  39. Lalli, J. S., Browder, D. M., Mace, F. C., & Brown, D. K. (1993). Teacher use of descriptive analysis data to implement interventions to decrease students’ problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26, 227–238.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  40. Lerman, D. C., & Iwata, B. A. (1993). Descriptive and experimental analysis of variables maintaining self-injurious behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26, 293–319.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  41. Mace, F. C. (1994). The significance and future of functional analysis methodologies. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 385–392.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  42. Mace, F. C., & Lalli, J. S. (1991). Linking descriptive and experimental analyses in the treatment of bizarre speech. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 24, 553–562.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  43. Magee, S. K., & Ellis, J. K. (2000). Extinction effects during the assessment of multiple problem behaviors. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33, 313–316.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  44. McComas, J. J., & Mace, F. C. (2000). Theory and practice in conducting functional analyses. In E. S. Shapiro & T. R. Kratochwill (Eds.), Behavioral assessment in schools (2nd ed., pp. 78–103). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  45. McKerchar, P. M., & Thompson, R. H. (2004). A descriptive analysis of potential reinforcement contingencies in the preschool classroom. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 37, 431–444.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  46. Meyer, K. A. (1999). Functional analysis and treatment of problem behavior exhibited by elementary school children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 32, 229–232.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  47. Moore, J. W., Edwards, R. P, Sterling-Turner, H. E., Riley, J., Dubard, M., & McGeorge, A. (2002). Teacher acquisition of functional analysis methodology. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 35, 72–77.Google Scholar
  48. Mueller, M. M., & Nkosi, A. (2006). Behavior analytic consultation to schools. Atlanta GA: Stimulus Publications.Google Scholar
  49. Newcomer, L. L., & Lewis, T. J. (2004). Functional behavioral assessment: An investigation of assessment reliability and effectiveness of function-based interventions. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 12, 168–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Newton, J. T., & Sturmey, P. (1991). The Motivation Assessment Scale: Inter-rater reliability and internal consistency in a British sample. Journal of Mental Deficiency Research, 35, 472–474.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Nicholson, J., Konstantinidi, E., & Furniss, F. (2006). On some psychometric properties of the questions about behavioral function (QABF) scale. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 27, 337–352.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Northup, J., Wacker, D., Sasso, G., Steege, M., Cigrand, K., Cook, J., & DeRaad, A. (1991). A brief functional analysis of aggressive and alternative behavior in an outclinic setting. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 24, 509–522.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  53. O’Neill, R. E., Horner, R. H., Albin, R. W., Sprague, J. R., Storey, K., & Newton, J. S. (1997). Functional assessment and program development for problem behavior: A practical handbook (2nd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.Google Scholar
  54. O’Neill, R. E., & Johnson, J. W. (2000). Research and practice for persons with severe disabilities. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 25, 197–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Paclawskyj, T. R., Matson, J. L., Rush, K. S., Smalls, Y., & Vollmer, T. R. (2000). Questions About Behavioral Function (QABF): A behavioral checklist for functional assessment of aberrant behavior. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 21, 223–229.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Pelios, L., Morren, J., Tesch, D., & Axelrod, S. (1999). The impact of functional analysis methodology on treatment choice for self-injurious and aggressive behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 32, 185–195.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  57. Piazza, C. C., Hanley, G. P., & Fisher, W. W. (1996). Functional analysis and treatment of cigarette pica. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 29, 437–450.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  58. Ringdahl, J. E., & Sellers, J. A. (2000). The effects of different adults as therapists during functional analyses. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33, 247–250.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  59. Risley, T. R. (1968). The effects and side effects of punishing the autistic behaviors of a deviant child. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 21–34.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  60. Rooker, G. W., Hagopian, L. P., DeLeon, I. G., & Jessel, J. (in press). Clarification of undifferentiated functional analysis outcomes. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.Google Scholar
  61. Sasso, G. M., Reimers, T. M., Cooper, L. J., Wacker, D., Berg, W., Steege, M., Kelly, L., & Allaire, A. (1992). The use of descriptive and experimental analyses to identify the functional properties of aberrant behavior in school settings. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 25, 809–821.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  62. Shogren, K. A., & Rojahn, J. (2003). Convergent reliability and validity of the Questions About Behavioral Function and the Motivation Assessment Scale: A replication study. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 15, 367–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Sidman, M. (1960). Tactics of scientific research. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  64. Sigafoos, J., & Saggers, E. (1995). A discrete-trial approach to the functional analysis of aggressive behaviour in two boys with autism. Australia & New Zealand Journal of Developmental Disabilities, 20, 287–297.Google Scholar
  65. Smith, R. G., & Churchill, R. M. (2002). Identification of environmental determinants of behavior disorders through functional analysis of precursor behaviors. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 35, 125–136.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  66. Smith, R. G., Iwata, B. A., Vollmer, T. R., & Zarcone, J. R. (1993). Experimental analysis and treatment of multiply controlled self-injury. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26, 183–196.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  67. St. Peter, C. C., Vollmer, T. R., Bourret, J. C., Borrero, C. S. W., Sloman, K. N., & Rapp, J. T. (2005). On the role of attention in naturally occurring matching relations. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 38, 429–443.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Stephenson, K. M., & Hanley, G. P. (2010). Preschoolers’ compliance with simple instructions: A description and experimental evaluation. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 43, 229–247.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  69. Tarbox, J., Wallace, M. D., Tarbox, R. S. F., Landaburu, H. J., & Williams, L. W. (2004). Functional analysis and treatment of low rate behavior in individuals with developmental disabilities. Behavioral Interventions, 19, 187–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Taylor, J., & Miller, M. (1997). When timeout works some of the time: The importance of treatment integrity and functional assessment. School Psychology Quarterly, 12, 4–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Thomason-Sassi, J. L., Iwata, B. A., Neidert, P. L., & Roscoe, E. M. (2011). Response latency as an index of response strength during functional analyses of problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 51–67.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  72. Thompson, R. H., Fisher, W. W., Piazza, C. C., & Kuhn, D. E. (1998). The evaluation and treatment of aggression maintained by attention and automatic reinforcement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 31, 103–116.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  73. Thompson, R. H., & Iwata, B. A. (2001). A descriptive assessment of social consequences following problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 34, 169–178.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  74. Thompson, R. H., & Iwata, B. A. (2005). A review of reinforcement control procedures. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 38, 257–278.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  75. Thompson, R. H., & Iwata, B. A. (2007). A comparison of outcomes from descriptive and functional analyses of problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40, 333–338.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  76. Tiger, J. H., Hanley, G. P., & Bessette, K. (2006). Incorporating descriptive assessment results into the design of functional analyses: A case example involving a preschooler’s handmouthing. Education and Treatment of Children, 29, 107–124.Google Scholar
  77. Valdimarsdóttir, H., Halldórsdóttir, L. Y., & Sigurðardóttir, Z. G. (2010). Increasing the variety of foods consumed by a picky eater: Generalization of effects across caregivers and settings. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 43, 101–105.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  78. Vollmer, T. R., Borrero, J. C., Wright, C. S., Van Camp, C., & Lalli, J. S. (2001). Identifying possible contingencies during descriptive analyses of problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 34, 269–287.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  79. Wallace, M. D., & Iwata, B. A. (1999). Effects of session duration on functional analysis outcomes. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 32, 175–183.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  80. Wallace, M. D., & Knights, D. J. (2003). An evaluation of a brief functional analysis format within a vocational setting. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 36, 125–128.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  81. Weber, K. P., Killu, K., Derby, K. M., & Barretto, A. (2005). The status of functional behavioral assessment (FBA): Adherence to standard practice in FBA methodology. Psychology in the Schools, 42, 737–744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Worsdell, A. S., Iwata, B. A., Conners, J., Kahng, S., & Thompson, R. H. (2000). Relative influences of establishing operations and reinforcement contingencies on self-injurious behavior during functional analyses. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33, 451–461.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  83. Zarcone, J. R., Rodgers, T. A., Iwata, B. A., Rourke, D. A., & Dorsey, M. F. (1991). Reliability analysis of the Motivation Assessment Scale: A failure to replicate. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 12, 349–362.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Association of Behavior Analysis International 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Western New England UniversitySpringfieldUSA

Personalised recommendations