Academic journal article The Journal of Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention

A Function-Based Intervention to Decrease Disruptive Behavior and Increase Academic Engagement

Academic journal article The Journal of Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention

A Function-Based Intervention to Decrease Disruptive Behavior and Increase Academic Engagement

Article excerpt


A range of interventions exist to prevent and respond to disruptive classroom behavior. This study documents the efficacy of a function-based intervention conducted using a multiple baseline across settings design. Despite moderately variable levels of treatment fidelity, results suggest a functional relation between the introduction of a package intervention and corresponding increases in academic engagement and decreases in disruption. Limitations and implications for future research are presented.

Keywords: function based intervention; treatment integrity.


In reviewing the empirical status of our knowledge about the nature and management of the class of behavior known as "disruption," Neary and Eyberg (2002) noted that: (a) disruption is a common behavior problem in children; (b) disruption presents itself in various specific ways including noncompliant, impulsive, attention-demanding, high rate and/or aggressive behaviors; (c) it is a common reason for referral to child mental health services; and, (d) left untreated, it is a highly stable and problematic pattern of behavior.

Not surprisingly, various behavior intervention procedures and packages have been developed and evaluated in terms of their ability to effectively eliminate such behavior challenges in children and youth. Some interventions have been developed for application by a child's parents such as Parent Child Interaction Therapy (e.g., Eisenstadt, Eyberg, McNeil, Newcomb, & Funderbunk, 1993; McNeil, Eyberg, Eisensadt, Newcomb, & Funderbunk, 1991; Neary & Eyberg, 2002). Others have developed interventions for application by teachers and other school personnel to address disruptive behavior in classroom and other educational settings (e.g., De Martini-Scully, Bray, & Kehle, 2000; Kelshaw-Levering, SterlingTurner, Henry, & Skinner, 2000; Musser, Bray, Kehle, & Jenson, 2001; Theodore, Bray, Kehle, & Jenson, 2001). Furthermore with the addition of case management and consultation strategies, these procedures can be applied in a coordinated fashion to have good effect across a child's school and home environments (e.g., Martin & Hagan-Burke, 2002).

Although different in their specific applications and some of their conceptual underpinnings, these behavioral procedures and intervention packages also have underlying similarities. Generally, these approaches seek to alter maladaptive interaction patterns between the disruptive child and the adults (teachers, parents) in his/her environment. This re-arrangement is frequently accomplished by teaching the teacher or parent to modify his/her own behavior toward the child: (a) state behavior expectations clearly; (b) use direct or "precision" requests; (c) apply differential reinforcement procedures; and (d) employ response cost or time out procedures to decrease more serious disruptive behaviors of the child (Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991). There is a considerable data base supporting the efficacy of these combined procedures in producing lasting decreases in disruptive behaviors and increasing alternative positive behaviors (e.g., Ayllon & Roberts, 1974; De Martini-Scully et .al. 2000; Friman, 1990; KelshawLevering et al. 2000; Langland, Lewis-Palmer, & Sugai, 1998; Matheson, & Shriver 2005; McIntosh, Rizza, & Bliss, 2000; Moore, 1999; Musser et al. 2001; Theodore et al. 2001; Thomas, Becker & Armstrong, 1968).

When specific classes of behavior intervention procedures have been compared in terms of their relative effectiveness some procedures generally appear to be more effective than others. In a meta-analysis of 99 studies with over 5000 students, Stage and Quiroz (1997) found that the most effective behavioral interventions as determined by effect sizes were group contingencies, self-management, and differential reinforcement while the least effective were functional-based interventions (hypothesis-based interventions that altered classroom antecedent triggers and/or consequences that maintained disruptive behaviors) and cognitive-behavioral interventions (those that combine learning principles with cognitive factors such as anger control programs, relaxation training affective imagery, and social problem-solving). …

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