Use of analog functional analysis in assessing the function of mealtime behavior problems

Peter A. Girolami, Joseph R. Scotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Some children exhibit disruptive and self-injurious behavior during mealtime, limiting the positive interaction between caregiver and child, and decreasing the probability of a nutritionally adequate intake. Research has demonstrated the utility of functional analysis (i.e., identifying controlling variables of problem behavior) for the development of effective non-aversive interventions for a variety of behavior problems. This study applied the methodology of an analog experimental (functional) analysis of behavior to the specific interaction between parents and children exhibiting food refusal and related mealtime behavior problems. Analog conditions resembling feeding situations were constructed to identify the variables maintaining the mealtime behavior problems exhibited by three children. For two of the children, the primary function of food refusal was escape from food presentation and mealtime demands. For the third child, contingent access to toys and attention were the most important maintaining variables. These analog results were highly consistent with other forms of functional assessment data, including interviews, questionnaires, and direct observations (i.e., A-B-C). The study provides the first demonstration of the feasibility, and concurrent validity, of conducting an analog functional analysis of mealtime behaviors, and doing so in the home environment where meals naturally occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-223
Number of pages17
JournalEducation and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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