Assessment and treatment of destructive behavior maintained by stereotypic object manipulation

Wayne W. Fisher, Steven E. Lindauer, Cindy J. Alterson, Rachel H. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


In the current investigation, 2 participants with mental retardation displayed property destruction and stereotypy, and both responses involved the same materials (e.g., breaking and tapping plastic objects). Three experiments were conducted (a) to indirectly assess the functions of these two responses, (b) to determine their relation to one another, and (c) to develop a treatment to reduce the more serious behavior, property destruction. In Experiment 1, previously destroyed materials were either present or absent, and their presence reduced property destruction but not stereotypy. In Experiment 2, matched toys (ones that produced sensory stimulation similar to stereotypy) were either present or absent, or were replaced by unmatched toys (for 1 participant). Matched toys produced large reductions and unmatched toys produced small reductions in property destruction and stereotypy. In Experiment 3, attempts to pick up undestroyed objects were either blocked or not blocked while matched toys were continuously available. Response blocking reduced property destruction (and attempts), prevented stereotypy, and increased manipulation of matched toys. These results suggest that the two aberrant responses formed a chain (e.g., breaking and then tapping the object), which was maintained by the sensory consequences (e.g., auditory stimulation) of the terminal response, and that previously destroyed material or matched toys made the initial response (property destruction) unnecessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-527
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of applied behavior analysis
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Automatic reinforcement
  • Functional analysis
  • Property destruction
  • Stereotypy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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