Academic journal article The Behavior Analyst Today

The Application of Response Allocation Matching to Understanding Risk Mechanisms in Development: The Case of Young Children's Deviant Talk and Play, and Risk for Early-Onset Antisocial Behavior

Academic journal article The Behavior Analyst Today

The Application of Response Allocation Matching to Understanding Risk Mechanisms in Development: The Case of Young Children's Deviant Talk and Play, and Risk for Early-Onset Antisocial Behavior

Article excerpt

The application of matching law-response choice paradigm in longitudinal research to identify social environmental and organismic factors that increment risk for the development of maladaptive behavior is described. The fit of data to the matching relation can be used to specify environmental contingencies for problem behavior that may be targeted in preventive and clinical interventions. Deviations in the fit of the data from that predicted by the matching relation can also be used to identify sources of variability in individuals' responsiveness to standardized, contingency-based interventions. The proposed formulation is described in relation to the development and treatment of early-onset conduct problems.

Keywords: Matching law, conduct problems, developmental risk research, intervention.

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This report describes how the matching law-response choice paradigm derived from operant research can be applied in longitudinal research to identify social environmental variables that increment risk for the development of maladaptive behavior. This information can, in turn, be used to powerfully specify environmental contingencies in preventive and clinical interventions to ameliorate problem behavior. This report additionally considers how between-individual differences in temperament, learning history, and similar person variables may work in concert with environmental contingencies to affect risk for problem behavior. Between-individual variation in observed response choice from that predicted by the matching law can be used to identify individuals who are less responsive to contingency-based intervention strategies. Individual differences in sensitivity to experienced contingencies may account for baseline X intervention variation in behavior change outcomes, and consequently supply information about creating increasingly effective and robust preventive and clinical interventions. This formulation is detailed in the context of the development of antisocial behavior.

A Reinforcement Account of the Development of Antisocial Behavior

Individuals whose development is characterized by early-onset, life-course persistent antisocial behavior contribute substantially to the incidence of multiple problem behaviors during adolescence and adulthood, including criminal activity, drug misuse and abuse, domestic violence, and early child-bearing (Reid, Patterson, & Snyder, 2002). Consequently, efforts to identify malleable social-environmental variables occurring during childhood that increment risk for such trajectories are critical to the development of effective preventive and clinical interventions (Reid & Eddy, 1997). Research suggests that reinforcement contingencies operating in familial (Snyder & Stoolmiller, 2002), peer (Snyder, 2002), and classroom (Walker, Horner, Sugai, Bullis, Sprague, Bricker, & Kaufman, 1996) environments are one source of risk for early appearing conduct problems. This has led to a number of empirically validated, contingency-based interventions to ameliorate risk, including parent training (Brestan & Eyberg, 1998), playground monitoring (Stoolmiller, Eddy, & Reid, 2000), and classroom management (Gorman-Smith, 2003).

Given that the theoretical mechanisms underlying environmental risk and intervention effectiveness are thought to involve social reinforcement contingencies, remarkably little research has focused on explicitly testing whether reinforcement mechanisms account for developmental risk or serve as mediators of intervention effects (for exceptions, see Dishion, Spracklen, Andrews, & Patterson, 1996; Schrepferman & Snyder, 2002; Snyder & Patterson, 1995). As such, reinforcement theory is really being applied in a metaphorical manner. Much greater effort has been spent on examining the effectiveness, efficacy and sustainability of interventions for antisocial behavior (Kellam & Langevin, 2003). …

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