Antecedents: The A in the ABC’s of Behavioral Analysis | Behavior Analysts Tampa: ABA Therapy, Autism, Behavior Problems, ADHD/Learning Disabilities
 

Antecedents: The A in the ABC’s of Behavioral Analysis

Published on January 9, 2013 | Published by: Kelley Prince M.A., BCBA

In behavior analysis, ABC data is typically the preferred method used when observing a behavior.  This involves directly observing and recording situational factors surrounding a problem behavior using an assessment tool called ABC data collection. An ABC data form is an assessment tool used to gather information on a certain problem behavior or behaviors being exhibited by a child. ABC refers to:

  • Antecedent- The events, action(s), or circumstances that occur immediately before a behavior
  • Behavior- The behavior in detail
  • Consequences- The action(s) or response(s) that immediately follows the behavior

The purpose of this blog will be to explain exactly what an antecedent is and how it’s importance in modifying problem behaviors:

  • What is an antecedent?
    • In technical terms, antecedents of behavior are stimulus events, situations, or circumstances that precede an operant response (Miltenberger, 2004).
    • In Laymen terms, an antecedent is what was happening or what/who was present right before the behavior occurred.
    • Why are antecedents important?
      • To understand and modify behavior, it’s important to analyze the antecedents and consequences. When we understand the antecedents of a behavior we have information on the circumstances in which the behavior was reinforced and was punished (Miltenberger, 2004).
      • Since behaviors tend to occur more in situations in which it has been reinforced and less in situations where it has been punished, having this valuable information helps us to predict the situations and environments the behavior will be more likely to occur.
      • List of questions to ask to gather information on the antecedents of a problem behavior:
        • When does the problem behavior usually occur?
        • Where does the problem behavior usually occur?
        • Who is present when the problem behavior occurs?
        • What activities or events precede the occurrence of the problem behavior?
        • What do other people say or do immediately before the problem behavior?
        • Does the child engage in any other behaviors before the problem behavior?
        • When, where, with whom, and in what circumstances is the problem behavior least likely to occur?
      • Manipulating antecedents to evoke desirable behaviors
        • Present the cues for the desired behavior in the child’s environment.
          • For example, the cue for eating healthy foods is the presence of healthy foods in the kitchen or in the individual’s lunch bag. If the healthy foods are not present, the person or child will be less likely to eat such foods; if they are present and readily available the person or child will be more likely to eat them.   
  • Arrange the environment or set up a biological condition so that engaging in the desirable behavior is more valuable to the child.
    • In our food example, a biological condition would be going without food for some time. This would make food more reinforcing and therefore strengthen the behavior of getting and eating food.
    • To arrange the environment, you could buy a healthy food cookbook to make it more likely that you will cook food that tastes good and more likely to eat it.
  • Decrease the physical effort needed for the child to engage in the desired behavior.
    • In other words, when a desirable behavior takes less response effort than an alternative undesirable behavior, and both behaviors result in the same outcome, the desirable behavior is more likely to occur.
    • For example, one way to decrease the effort needed for a child to be able to eat healthy foods would be to keep only healthy foods in the house and not junk food. Also by bringing a healthy lunch to school makes it more likely your child will eat the healthy food which takes less effort than getting up and standing in line for an unhealthy school lunch.

Three ways to manipulate antecedents to increase a desirable behavior are:

1)    Present the cues for the desired behavior in the child’s environment.

2)    Arrange the environment or set up a biological condition so that engaging in the desirable behavior is more valuable to the child.

3)    Decrease the physical effort needed for the child to engage in the desired behavior.

Do you have examples of situations in which antecedents were manipulated in order to improve behavior? If so, please leave them in the comment section below.

 
 

2 comments on “Antecedents: The A in the ABC’s of Behavioral Analysis

  1. Alecia Harris on said:

    Often, stimulus such as too much noise or visual can increase maladaptive behaviors, so preparing the environment by reducing noise levels, having people enter the room quietly, having the walls painted calm colors and not having a lot of posters on the wall so there aren’t a lot of visual distractions aid in providing a calm enviornment and reducing visual and noise distractions.

  2. Alecia Harris on said:

    Preparing the environment by controlling for noise and visual stimulus can aid in reducing maladaptive behaviors. Instruct people to enter the room quietly and control for other noise like music. Paint room colors calming colors and keep posters and art work to a minimum. By reducing distractions that may escalate or distract, the child has a greater chance at being successful.

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