Academic journal article Behavioral Disorders

Social Interaction Setting Events: Experimental Analysis of Contextual Variables

Academic journal article Behavioral Disorders

Social Interaction Setting Events: Experimental Analysis of Contextual Variables

Article excerpt

Severe problem behaviors pose serious challenges for families and teachers of children with E/BD. Behaviors such as noncompliance, aggression, property destruction, and antisocial responses place these children at risk for exclusion from typical school settings (Dunlap & Kern, 1993; Sasso et al., 1992; Vaughn & Horner, 1997).

In the last 20 years, we have witnessed a reemergence in the behavior analytic literature of assessment and treatment processes based on the functions of severe behavioral problems (Carr, 1977; Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, & Richman, 1982/1994). Functional assessment attempts to identify the maintaining variables that control or support the occurrence of behavioral problems. When these variables are identified accurately, hypothesis-- driven interventions can be devised (Durand & Carr, 1987; Repp, Felce, & Barton, 1988). There is also increasing evidence that interventions matched to the functions of behavioral problems yield more effective and durable results (Carr & Durand, 1985; Iwata, Pace, Cowdery, & Miltenberger, 1994; Mace, Lalli, & Pinter-Lalli, 1991).

The operant model provides two areas of emphasis for assessment of variables maintaining both problem and prosocial behavior. Functional analyses are designed to determine maintaining variables (consequences) that directly control responses (Neef & Iwata, 1994; Sasso & Reimers, 1988). This assessment process can result in a powerful experimental analysis capable of producing direct functional relationships between a behavior and its controlling variables. Structural analyses, on the other hand, provide an assessment of antecedent conditions or discriminative stimuli that set the stage for responses. Until recently, few investigations were reported demonstrating the relationship between an assessment of these contextual variables and antecedent interventions for severe behavior problems (Carr & Carlson, 1993; Touchette, MacDonald, & Langer, 1985). However, recent work employing a hypothesis-driven structural assessment model suggests that variables such as task length (Dunlap, Kern-- Dunlap, Clarke, & Robbins, 1991), task difficulty (Umbreit, 1996a), and preference (Clarke et al., 1995; Umbreit & Blair, 1997) can have significant effects on the occurrence of behavior. In all of the investigations just mentioned, the primary focus of the assessment was severe behavioral problems and the goal was a reduction of these problem behaviors through a careful arrangement of identified antecedent variables.

Another area of behavioral support that may benefit from these types of analyses is social interaction. The recent emphasis on inclusion has opened a number of new environments and interaction opportunities to children with E/BD (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1994; Lewis, Chard, & Scott, 1994). However, the specific support components of these environments remain largely unexplored. We know some things about the types of behavior that support or preclude effective social interaction. For example, there is a limited but growing literature regarding the assessment of social behaviors critical to further successful interaction. Tremblay, Strain, Hendrickson, and Shores (1981) showed that behaviors including sharing and play organizers are highly correlated with social success. Likewise, Sasso and colleagues (1992), using a template matching procedure, identified a number of critical social behaviors that differentiate across age and gender.

Peer-Mediated Intervention Strategies

In addition, a great deal of attention has been paid to procedures that result in increased social competence and effective interaction (Carr & Darcy, 1990; Goldstein & Cisar, 1992; Strain, Kohler, Storey, & Danko, 1994). Among the most durable have been peer-- mediated strategies. McEvoy, Odom, and McConnell (1992) noted that peer-mediated procedures are the most frequently used social interaction interventions and represent the largest empirical base. …

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