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J Appl Behav Anal. 2003 Summer;36(2):147-85.

Functional analysis of problem behavior: a review.

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Department of Human Development and Family Life, University of Kansas, Lawrence 66045, USA.


Functional analysis methodology focuses on the identification of variables that influence the occurrence of problem behavior and has become a hallmark of contemporary approaches to behavioral assessment. In light of the widespread use of pretreatment functional analyses in articles published in this and other journals, we reviewed the literature in an attempt to identify best practices and directions for future research. Studies included in the present review were those in which (a) a pretreatment assessment based on (b) direct observation and measurement of (c) problem behavior was conducted under (d) at least two conditions involving manipulation of an environmental variable in an attempt (e) to demonstrate a relation between the environmental event and behavior. Studies that met the criteria for inclusion were quantified and critically evaluated along a number of dimensions related to subject and setting characteristics, parametric and qualitative characteristics of the methodology, types of assessment conditions, experimental designs, topographies of problem behaviors, and the manner in which data were displayed and analyzed.

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