Antecedent manipulation of task novelty in children whose behaviors are maintained by escape from academic demand

Melanie Dawn DuBard

Abstract

Children frequently exhibit problem behaviors in the classroom in order to escape from academic tasks or other aversive stimuli. Functional analysis is the method typically utilized when the goal is to develop interventions that address the variables maintaining a particular problem behavior. Typical functional analyses identify the maintaining consequences of problem behavior. An alternative approach is to manipulate antecedent events to determine if there are variables that may occasion problem behavior or may alter the reinforcing value of consequences. One type of antecedent manipulation is novelty of task materials. Very little research has been conducted on the effect novel tasks have on escape-maintained behavior. The current investigation manipulated task novelty and difficulty of tasks to determine their effect on escape-maintained behavior. The current study will also compared the effects of these antecedent manipulations on typically developing children versus children with disabilities. Four of the 5 participants had the highest levels of problem behavior during the difficult task conditions. Four of the 5 participants also had the highest levels of problem behavior during novel task conditions. All 3 participants with disabilities had the highest levels of problem behavior in the difficult novel conditions whereas the 2 typically developing participants had the highest levels of problem behavior during the easy novel task condition for 1 participant and the difficult task condition for the other participant.