Behavior analysts practicing in the field of applied behavior analysis have the opportunity to greatly influence their clients’ lives. Whether a behavior analyst is working with children or adults, they can use behavior-change methods to improve their clients’ quality of life.
One task that a behavior analyst should take into consideration when helping their clients is how the behavior in the client’s everyday environment may influence the client’s behavior and functioning.
The BACB 4th Edition Task List identifies the following as an essential skill that behavior analysts should be familiar with (Item K-02):
“Identify the contingencies governing the behavior of those responsible for carrying out behavior-change procedures and design interventions accordingly.”
This means that behavior analysts should actively assess and identify the contingencies that are present related to the behavior of anyone who may be implementing treatment recommendations or behavior plans. Additionally, intervention should address these contingencies in a way that promotes positive behavior change for the client.
Behavioral contingencies to evaluate may be those that exist for the behavior technician working with a client, for a parent of the client, for a teacher educating the client, or even a childcare provider who regularly interacts with the client. Behavioral contingencies to evaluate may also include friends or family members of adult clients that are receiving services.
Behavioral contingencies are basically the events surrounding the occurrence of a behavior. For instance, if this happens, then this behavior is displayed. And when this behavior is displayed, this consequence occurs which may reinforce or punish the identified behavior.
Examples of a behavioral contingency that may be present for a parent of a client who is receiving ABA services may be the following:
- If the parent got at least 8 hours of sleep last night, the parent is more likely to accurately implement a maladaptive behavior reduction plan for their child (possibly due to it requiring less response effort on their part to be consistent about implementing consequences and handling tantrums or other undesired behaviors in their child).
- If a parent has another child (not the client) who is ill, the parent may provide the client with more electronic/screen time than what is decided is typically recommended for the client.
- If Child completes his homework at school, the parent is more likely to engage in pairing and relationship-building activities with the client after the child gets home from school.
- If Child independently completes a morning routine including getting dressed and getting materials needed for school, Parent will make a healthy breakfast and pack the child’s lunch with a balanced meal.
Although this article presents just a basic introduction to the concept of assessing and identifying contingencies that are present for people who may implement behavior-change programs, this skill of behavior analysts is much more complex.
Be sure to thoroughly assess and then identify relevant behavioral contingencies for people who may influence your clients’ behavior-change programs.
In the examples above, you may consider how a parent’s other responsibilities impact how they implement behavior-change programs with their child. You might also consider what recommendations you may provide to reduce barriers to effective behavior-change program implementation as well as modify your programs to better suit the needs, abilities, and strengths of the parent.
Taking into consideration the behavioral contingencies present in people who may be implementing behavior-change programs for your clients is important in many ways.