Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

A Systematic Review of Brief Functional Analysis Methodology with Typically Developing Children

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

A Systematic Review of Brief Functional Analysis Methodology with Typically Developing Children

Article excerpt

Abstract

Brief functional analysis (BFA) is an abbreviated assessment methodology derived from traditional extended functional analysis methods. BFAs are often conducted when time constraints in clinics, schools or homes are of concern. While BFAs have been used extensively to identify the function of problem behavior for children with disabilities, their utility with typically developing children has been questioned. This systematic review evaluates empirical studies, in which BFAs were employed with typically developing children to identify function of problem behavior. Twelve articles were reviewed and coded for quality indicators based on specific single-subject design criteria. Nine studies were considered to have acceptable quality and were summarized according to practice dimensions such as settings, therapists, problem behavior, and behavioral functions. Results suggest that BFA meets the standards for an empirically supported assessment methodology for typically developing children. Evidence is strongest for parents and teachers to serve as therapists when disruptive behavior is of concern.

An experimental analysis of behavior utilizes single-subject design methodology to systematically manipulate independent variables (i.e., environmental events) and to observe their effects on dependent variables (e.g., problem behavior) (Kazdin, 1982; Skinner, 1966). A functional analysis (Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, & Richman, 1982/1994) employs these methods to identify a functional relationship between environmental events and behavior. These procedures, allow for the identification of variables that maintain problem behavior (i.e., "function" of problem behavior). The results of the functional analysis can then be used to develop prescriptive interventions targeting the identified variables or functions.

The functional analysis methodology originally developed by Iwata et al. (1982/1994) has been referred to as an extended functional analysis and has been used extensively since the publication of this seminal article. The extended methodology has been considered the "gold standard" for the assessment of problem behavior (Wacker, Berg, Harding, & Cooper-Brown, 2004). However, there have also been drawbacks to using an extended functional analysis, most notably are the time and personnel resources required. Extended functional analyses are often conducted within special education classrooms and in other highly controlled settings (e.g. inpatient units) (Wacker et al., 1998). Iwata and colleagues initial procedures involved several 15-min sessions each day over a period of several weeks, which, due to time constraints, may not be feasible in settings such as general education classrooms, homes, and outpatient clinics. In fact, many community professionals, especially in schools, report that they do not have the time, money, or resources to conduct extended functional analyses (Scott, Meers, & Nelson, 2000).

Professionals working with children are often called upon to assess and treat a variety of behavior problems. For school systems, the 1997 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) required the use of a functional behavior assessment to inform the development of a behavior intervention plan. In addition to being mandated for schools, in general, functional behavior assessment procedures are considered "best practice" for the assessment of behavior problems (e.g., Andorfer & Miltenberger, 1993). Functional assessment is an umbrella term for any procedure used to ascertain the function of behavior. There are two general types of functional assessment methods--indirect and direct (Gresham, Watson & Skinner, 2001). It is common for an assessment of problem behavior to begin with indirect functional techniques (e.g., functional interviews, historical/archival records, behavior rating scales/checklists, etc.). Indirect methods are typically used to gather preliminary information and generate hypotheses of behavioral function, which can be tested using direct assessment methods that involve manipulation of environmental variables (i. …

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