Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

John Northup


Disruptive classroom behaviors are a frequent referral problem in school settings. Although there are several intervention approaches that are commonly used in classroom settings, no standard methodology exists for developing interventions to decrease behavior problems. The primary purpose of this investigation was to develop interventions based upon a functional analysis of disruptive behavior of developmentally normal children in classroom settings, and to analyze treatment effectiveness. Functional analyses which investigated the effect of peer attention, teacher attention, and negative reinforcement (escape) were conducted with five participants. The variable maintaining disruptive classroom behavior was peer attention for all participants. Following the functional analyses, an intervention using differential reinforcement and extinction was conducted, which resulted in near zero levels of disruptive behavior across all participants. These near zero levels of disruptive behavior were associated with increases in on-task behavior, and were maintained as intervention procedures were conducted and modified over time. Second, this investigation was conducted to determine whether variables maintaining disruptive classroom behaviors according to a functional analysis (Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, & Richman, 1982/1994) are identified as preferred using standard preference and reinforcer assessments. Two methods of preference assessment and a reinforcer assessment were conducted with each participant. The highest level of agreement was found between the functional analysis and the reinforcer assessment, which identified peer attention as most preferred by four participants. The results of this study suggest that functional analyses may be conducted in regular education settings to identify variables maintaining disruptive behavior, and that intervention strategies based upon functional analyses may lead to positive reductions in disruptive behaviors. In addition, the results of this study provide preliminary evidence for the comparability of functional analyses and reinforcer assessments, in that agreement was found in the identified variable for three of five subjects. Future investigations are needed in order to further understand whether variables maintaining disruptive behavior may also reinforce appropriate academic behavior, such as work completion. In addition, it would be important to determine whether variables that are not identified as reinforcers for an individual would have an influence on disruptive behavior in the context of classroom interventions.