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.


33rd Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2007

Event Details

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Symposium #436
CE Offered: BACB
Evaluation of the Relation between Descriptive Analyses and Functional Analyses
Monday, May 28, 2007
3:30 PM–4:50 PM
Elizabeth DE
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Eileen M. Roscoe (New England Center for Children)
CE Instructor: Eileen M. Roscoe, Ph.D.

Although descriptive analyses only provide correlational information about antecedent and consequent events associated with problem behavior, they may be useful in some situations. The four papers included in this symposium discuss various extensions of descriptive assessment methodology. In the first paper, Sacha Pence will discuss results from a study comparing outcomes from two commonly used descriptive assessment methods to outcomes obtained from a functional analysis. In the second paper, Jessa Love will review descriptive analysis and functional analysis data from 30 children diagnosed with autism, noting the relation between behavioral function and a number of other dependent variables, including referral source, diagnosis, response topography, descriptive assessment type, and functional analysis characteristics. In the third paper, Curtis Harris will discuss a study evaluating the utility of conducting a structured descriptive assessment method when a functional analysis resulted in unclear outcomes. In the final paper, Erin Camp will describe a study evaluating the utility of an antecedent descriptive analysis by comparing probabilities of both antecedents and consequences of problem behavior to results obtained during a functional analysis.

Evaluation of the Relative Validity of Two Descriptive Analysis Methods.
SACHA T. PENCE (New England Center for Children), Eileen M. Roscoe (New England Center for Children), Mary Chiang (New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Although research has compared outcomes from descriptive assessments to those obtained from functional analysis, no study to date has compared the relative validity of different descriptive assessment methods. Because different descriptive assessment methods vary greatly with respect to their time and resource requirements, it may be helpful to determine whether methods that vary on these dimensions also differ in how they correspond with outcomes obtained from a functional analysis. This study compared the outcomes of two descriptive analysis methods, the ABC method and the interval-based method, to the results obtained from functional analyses. Six individuals diagnosed with autism, who exhibited problem behavior, participated. Functional analyses indicated that participants’ problem behavior was maintained by social-positive reinforcement (n = 2), social-negative reinforcement (n = 2), or automatic reinforcement (n = 2). Results showed that both descriptive analyses were useful in differentiating between behavior maintained by social versus automatic reinforcement, but were not useful in differentiating between behavior maintained by social positive versus social negative reinforcement.
Functional Assessment of Problem Behavior of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Summary of 30 Outpatient Cases.
JESSA R. LOVE (Western Michigan University), James E. Carr (Western Michigan University), Linda A. LeBlanc (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: The Centers for Disease Control (2006) recently reported that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) among children aged 4 to 17 years has increased to approximately 5.6 out of 1000 children. Problem behavior constitutes a diagnostic criterion class (e.g., stereotypy) and common clinical concern (e.g., self-injury, aggression) for this population. Recently, a number of researchers have published experimental-epidemiological analyses of the topographic and functional characteristics of problem behavior of individuals with developmental disabilities. One of the uses of such reports is the ability to predict the probability of behavioral functions under certain conditions (e.g., topography, diagnosis). However, no large-N summaries based on the objective observation of problem behavior of individuals with ASD have been published to date. The purpose of the present study is to summarize 30 cases from an outpatient problem behavior clinic serving children with ASD, including autism and Asperger’s disorder. The relation between behavioral function, as determined via experimental and descriptive analysis, and the following variables will be reported: referral source, diagnosis, response topography, descriptive assessment type, and functional analysis characteristics.
Clarifying Variables Associated with Problem Behaviors Using a Structured Descriptive Assessment.
CURTIS J. HARRIS (University of North Texas), Richard G. Smith (University of North Texas), Bryan S. Lovelace (University of North Texas), Jessica Hobbs (University of North Texas), Heather A. Moore (University of North Texas), Roxanne L. Wolf (University of North Texas), Donnie M. Staff (University of North Texas)
Abstract: This study evaluated the utility of a structured descriptive assessment (SDA) as an alternative method of functional assessment. Initially, an analogue functional analysis, conducted to assess the problem behavior of one adult with developmental disabilities, produced inconclusive results. Subsequently, an SDA was conducted in the individual’s natural environment with the direct-contact caregivers acting as therapists. The results from the SDA showed that problem behavior occurred during the demand condition but was maintained by attention. A treatment based on the results of the SDA was implemented in a reversal design and resulted in a notable reduction in the occurrences of problem behavior. This outcome suggests that SDA procedures may be useful when results from analogue functional analyses are inconclusive.
Antecedent versus Consequent Events as Predictors of Problem Behavior.
ERIN CAMP (University of Florida), Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida), Jennifer Lynn Hammond (University of Florida), Sarah E. Bloom (University of Florida)
Abstract: Although descriptive analyses are limited to the identification of correlational relations, they have been used occasionally in an attempt to identify the functional characteristics of problem behavior. Results of previous research have shown that attention is observed frequently as a consequence for problem behavior, even in cases when a functional analysis has shown that attention is not a functional reinforcer. Because the correlation between problem behavior and attention may arise simply because attention is “prescribed” as a means of terminating serious problem behavior, it is possible that antecedent events (establishing operations) might be better predictors of problem behavior than consequences. This study compares the probabilities of both antecedents and consequences of problem behavior during descriptive analysis to the results of a traditional functional analysis to assess the utility of an antecedent descriptive analysis.



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