Functional analysis of problem behavior: A systematic approach for identifying idiosyncratic variables

UMMS Affiliation

Shriver Center; Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Applied Behavior Analysis | Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Experimental Analysis of Behavior


When inconclusive functional analysis (FA) outcomes occur, a number of modifications have been made to enhance the putative establishing operation or consequence associated with behavioral maintenance. However, a systematic method for identifying relevant events to test during modified FAs has not been evaluated. The purpose of this study was to develop and evaluate a technology for systematically identifying events to test in a modified FA after an initial FA led to inconclusive outcomes. Six individuals, whose initial FA showed little or no responding or high levels only in the control condition, participated. An indirect assessment (IA) questionnaire developed for identifying idiosyncratic variables was administered, and a descriptive analysis (DA) was conducted. Results from the IA only or a combination of the IA and DA were used to inform modified FA test and control conditions. Conclusive FA outcomes were obtained with 5 of the 6 participants during the modified FA phase.


descriptive analysis, functional analysis, idiosyncratic variables, indirect assessment

DOI of Published Version



Roscoe EM, Schlichenmeyer KJ, Dube WV. Functional analysis of problem behavior: A systematic approach for identifying idiosyncratic variables. J Appl Behav Anal. 2015 Jun;48(2):289-314. doi: 10.1002/jaba.201. Epub 2015 May 1. PubMed PMID: 25930176; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4457553. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of applied behavior analysis

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID