Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Application of Positive Reinforcement for Improving Mealtime Eating of a Child in Home Setting: A Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Application of Positive Reinforcement for Improving Mealtime Eating of a Child in Home Setting: A Case Study

Article excerpt

Extensive research work on behavior modification techniques has been done in several settings on the behavior of children (Azrin & Lindsley, 1956; Baer, 1960; Bijou, 1957), adults (Goldiamond, 1965; Verplanck, 1955; Wölpe, 1958), patients with mental illness (Ayllon & Azrin, 1965; Ayllon & Michael, 1959), and individuals with mental retardation (Ferster, 1961; Fuller, 1949; Wolf, Risley, & Mees, 1964) and suggest effectiveness of such techniques. It is found to be effective for the treatment of several problems of children including eating problems.

A research on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in the treatment of childhood feeding problems (Palmer, Thompson & Linscheid, 1975) discussed behavioral mismanagement as a cause of feeding problems in children and reported the case of a six-year-old handicapped boy who was subsisting almost entirely on pureed foods at the time of his referral. Treatment with applied behavior analysis resulted in his acceptance of foods normal for his age, and at follow-up 12 months after treatment the variety of foods eaten and the nutrient intake were virtually normal for his age.

Improving mealtime behavior through token reinforcements (Sisson & Dixon, 1986) was a study on the effectiveness of a token reinforcement program in improving mealtime behaviors of four mentally retarded, behaviorally disordered children. Target behaviors included appropriate utensil use, appropriate napkin use, chewing with mouth closed, and good posture. Training was implemented in a group setting and consisted of verbal instructions, modeling, manual prompts, and token reinforcement delivered at preprogrammed variable intervals signaled by a tape recording. Results showed acquisition of target behaviors in 20 to 40 sessions. Further, behavioral gains were judged to be clinically significant by a group of independent observers.

In another study by Werle (1993) researcher evaluated the effects of behavioral parent training program on parent and child feeding-related behaviors in the home. They trained mothers to initiate regular offerings of previously rejected (target) foods and to provide contingent attention (i.e., specific prompts, positive reinforcement) to increase their child's acceptance of non-preferred foods. Results demonstrated that, with training, all mothers increased offerings of target foods and use of specific prompts, and 2 mothers increased levels of positive attention. In turn, children increased their acceptance of target foods and self-eating, thus demonstrating the functional effects of parent training on in-home meal times.

Building up on such researches as mentioned above, the present study aimed at strengthening the mealtime eating behavior in a developmentally typical 3-year-old girl using an intervention program based on positive reinforcement principle of applied behavior analysis in home setting.

Case History

The subject was a 3 year old girl XYZ, residing in Karachi, Pakistan. She was born on 31st August 2009; a normal birth. Her mother had a critical pregnancy with many complications most probably due to her stressful married life and suffered from high blood pressure and swelling throughout the pregnancy. She has no siblings and her parents divorced around the time of her birth. She belongs to a Muslim upper middle-class family. She lives with her mother, maternal grandparents and maternal uncle's family. She has never seen her father and gets no financial support from him; he has never made any attempt to meet her. Her mother's education is ? A and she works as a primary school teacher. XYZ had age-appropriate milestones, with an average height and average weight for her age and is toilet trained. When XYZ first started school, she used to suffer from severe separation anxiety and would have extreme crying spells in the morning. It was informed by her mother that this crying was out of control but then after one week she suddenly settled into school "like magic" and now she loves school so much that misses her teacher on the weekends. …

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