Compliance and correlated problem behávior in children: Effects of contingent and noncontingent reinforcement

Michael F. Cataldo, Eric M. Ward, Dennis C. Russo, Mary Riordan, Debra Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Analyses of response relationships offer the potential for designing treatment procedures that are more economical and entail less risk for misuse than many we currently employ. The present study investigated whether previous results indicating the reduction of problem behaviors by reinforcing compliance in fact occurred because of the contingent relationship between compliance and the presumed reinforcing events. A clinic analogue procedure consisting of a standard set of adult requests was employed in a multiple baseline design across subjects with three children receiving three conditions - no reinforcement, noncontingent reinforcement, and reinforcement contingent on compliance - and a fourth child receiving the first and third conditions to assess possible order effects. The data indicated that: (1) compliance covaried inversely with some, but not all, of the problem behaviors measured; (2) sustained covariation occurred only when reinforcement was contingent on compliance; (3) substantially large but transient increases in compliance and decreases in problem behavior during noncontingent reinforcement occurred for those children who initially demonstrated high compliance and low levels of aberrant behavior during baseline; and (4) the problem behaviors that inversely covaried with compliance were idiosyncratic across children. The results suggest that treatment procedures based on response relationship strategies should consider that children's individual learning histories may determine which behaviors covary and the likelihood that large, initial changes can occur with noncontingent reinforcement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-282
Number of pages18
JournalAnalysis and Intervention In Developmental Disablities
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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