Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



The functional analysis methodology developed by Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, and Richman (1982/1994) has been successfully used to identify the variables that maintain the problem behavior of individuals with developmental disabilities. However, in some cases, the results of functional analysis may be inconclusive. Altering parameters of reinforcement, such as the schedule, the quality, or magnitude of the reinforcer, may increase the likelihood of obtaining clear functional analysis results. Few studies have evaluated the effects of reinforcement magnitude on problem behavior even though basic findings indicate that this parameter may alter functional analysis outcomes. In fact, reinforcement magnitude has varied widely and appeared to be selected arbitrarily in most studies on functional analysis. In the current study, seven children with autism and/or developmental disabilities who engaged in severe problem behavior were exposed to three separate functional analyses: One with a small (3-s) reinforcement magnitude, one with a medium (20-s) reinforcement magnitude, and one with a large (120-s) reinforcement magnitude. Results of the three functional analyses were compared to determine if a particular reinforcement magnitude should be used to obtain the clearest outcomes. Overall, the same conclusion about the function (s) of each participant’s problem behavior was drawn regardless of the reinforcement magnitude. However, the medium reinforcement magnitude is recommended for use during functional analysis.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Dorothea Lerman



Included in

Psychology Commons