The Analysis of Verbal Behavior

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 51–60 | Cite as

The Functional Analysis of Problematic Verbal behavior

  • Christopher B. Ewing
  • Sandy K. Magee
  • Janet Ellis


This study describes procedures and outcomes in a functional analysis of problem behavior of 2 public school students. For a 13-year-old honors student, bizarre tacts (labeled as psychotic speech by school staff) were maintained by attention. For a 15-year-old with autism, the functional analysis revealed that perseverative mands for toileting were controlled by attention; mands for edible items were controlled by access to any food item; and mands for nonedible items were maintained by access to the specific item manded. The “problematic” aspects of the verbal behavior differed—the bizarre speech was problematic based on its content, but the perseverative verbalizations resulted in high response cost for classroom staff. Research in the area of problematic verbal behavior is sparse and warrants further attention from behavior analysts who work in public school settings. This research demonstrates the applicability and relevance of functionally analyzing problematic verbal behavior in public school settings.


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Copyright information

© Association of Behavior Analysis International 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher B. Ewing
    • 1
  • Sandy K. Magee
    • 1
  • Janet Ellis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Behavior AnalysisUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA

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