On the relation between adaptive functioning and the reinforcement function of challenging behavior

Jonathan D. Schmidt, Griffin W. Rooker, Jill C. Fodstad, Phillip Orchowitz, Amanda Goetzel, Patricia F. Kurtz, Louis P. Hagopian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are at an increased risk to engage in challenging behavior (CB), such as self-injury and aggression. For individuals with IDD, CB is believed to be the product of their disabilities and learning histories. Thus, deficits in adaptive behavior can lead to the occurrence of CB, which can produce reactions on the part of others that inadvertently reinforce the behavior. Research has shown that in most cases, functional behavioral assessment of CB can identify the reinforcement ‘function’ (e.g. to escape non-preferred situations, or gain access to attention), knowledge of which is critical to the development of behavioral treatments. Despite a strong link between deficits in adaptive behavior skills and CB, research has yet to examine how adaptive behavior is related to specific functions of CB. Methods: Vineland-II Parent/Caregiver and Survey results were administered to caregivers of 53 participants receiving treatment for CB. Results were compared to functional analysis outcomes of the participants CB. Results: Participants with CB maintained by automatic (or sensory) reinforcement had significantly lower scores in the Adaptive Behavior Composite, as well as the Socialization and Daily Living Skills domains. Participants with attention-maintained CB had higher scores in certain domains. Conclusions: Although effect sizes for both of these analyses were small, this study was exploratory in nature, and results indicate that the relationship between adaptive behavior and functions for CB warrants further investigation to determine how these impact each other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-182
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Developmental Disabilities
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 29 2016


  • Adaptive behavior
  • Challenging behavior
  • Functional analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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