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.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #44
CE Offered: BACB
Conceptual and Clinical Issues Related to the Study and Treatment of Anxiety
Saturday, May 26, 2012
2:00 PM–3:20 PM
202 (TCC)
Area: PRA/TPC; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Louis P. Hagopian (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Discussant: Patrick C. Friman (Father Flanagan's Girls and Boys Town)
CE Instructor: Louis P. Hagopian, Ph.D.
Abstract: Avoidance and escape behavior associated with apparent or tacted anxiety represents one of the most common reasons children are referred to treatment. Although early behavioral research on fear conditioning led to the development of highly effective behavioral interventions, behavior analysts rarely use this term. The current symposium will begin by reviewing a conceptual framework for defining anxiety as functional response class occasioned by stimuli that signal intense punishment. Next, specific behavioral assessment and treatment strategies will be discussed, including the potential use of measures of physiological responding and affect in addition to traditional behavioral measures. The next presenter will discuss the prevalence of anxiety in children with autism and differences relative to typically developing children. Concordance of differing assessment procedures will be discussed with regard to the problems and complexity of assessment of emotional and private events with individuals with limited language skills. The discussant, who has previously advocated for the study of anxiety by behavior analysts, will comment on these conceptual and clinical issues.
Anxiety: A Functional Response Class Occasioned by Stimuli that Signal Intense Punishment
LOUIS P. HAGOPIAN (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Heather K. Jennett (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Abstract: Other than a few exceptions (e.g., Friman, Hayes, & Wilson, 1998), the field of behavior analysis has generally avoided the use of the term “anxiety.” Perhaps this is related to the common use of the term as an explanatory hypothetical construct, or its use to describe private events, which are inherently difficult to precisely define and measure. However, early conceptualizations of fear conditioning from the animal learning relied solely on the analysis of observable behavior. Although some may consider a behavioral account of anxiety as incomplete, behavioral treatments for anxiety derived from this body of research have been shown to be highly effective and are universally accepted as representing best practices. This talk will discuss a behavioral conceptualization of anxiety, defining it as a functional response class occasioned by stimuli that signal intense punishment. As noted by Friman et al., for verbal humans, derived relational processes can also play a role in broadening the range of stimuli that can occasion the anxiety response. Adopting this framework has the potential to provide behavior analysts a means to objectively study, understand, and talk about this phenomenon; and thus enabling behavior analysts to better communicate with other disciplines, and access reimbursement for services for this ubiquitous problem.
The Contribution of Physiological Measurement to the Assessment of Anxiety in Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities
HEATHER K. JENNETT (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Louis P. Hagopian (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Abstract: In the anxiety literature, anxiety has been defined as a multi-component response (Davis & Ollendick, 2005; Lang, 1968), which includes behavioral, cognitive, affective, and physiological responding. For individuals with intellectual disabilities and communication deficits, assessment of cognitive responding or private events is not always possible and may not be reliable. In contrast, the assessment of behavioral, affective, and physiological responding is possible through direct observation. It is proposed that a combination of these three observable components may indicate that an anxiety response is present in individuals with intellectual disabilities. Use of physiological measurement, along with observation of behavioral and affective changes, will be discussed with implications for behavior analysts. Future research for validating this proposed model will also be discussed.

Anxiety, Fear, and Phobias in Young Children with Autism: Prevalence, Assessment, and Intervention

RAYMOND G. ROMANCZYK (State University of New York at Binghamton), Laura B. Turner (Binghamton University)

Recent research has indicated much higher prevalence of anxiety/fear for children with autism compared to typically developing children. The presentation will briefly review the prevalence, differences with typically developing children, and implications for social and emotional development in children with autism. The relationship between anxiety, fear, and phobias will be discussed in the context of atypical development and conceptualization of assessment and intervention practices. Specifically, concordance of differing assessment procedures will be discussed with regard to the problems and complexity of assessment of emotional and private events with individuals with limited language skills. Finally, examples of specific outcome data will be presented with discussion of cost-benefit analysis and the challenges of providing services to this substantial sub-group of children with autism.




Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh