Functional analysis and treatment of destructive behavior maintained by termination of "don't" (and symmetrical "do") requests

Wayne W. Fisher, John D. Adelinis, Rachel H. Thompson, April S. Worsdell, Jennifer R. Zarcone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


We used descriptive assessment information to generate hypotheses regarding the function of destructive behavior for 2 individuals who displayed near-zero rates of problem behavior during an experimental functional analysis using methods similar to Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, and Richman (1982/1994). The descriptive data suggested that destructive behavior occurred primarily when caregivers issued requests to the participants that interfered with ongoing high-probability (and presumably highly preferred) behaviors (i.e., a "don't" or a symmetrical "do" request). Subsequent experimental analyses showed that destructive behavior was maintained by contingent termination of "don't" and symmetrical "do" requests but not by termination of topographically similar "do" requests. These results suggested that destructive behavior may have been maintained by positive reinforcement (i.e., termination of the "don't" request allowed the individual to return to a highly preferred activity). Finally, a treatment (functional communication training plus extinction) developed on the basis of these analyses reduced destructive behavior to near-zero levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-356
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of applied behavior analysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • "Do" and "don't" requests
  • Aggression
  • Descriptive assessment
  • Functional analysis
  • Property destruction
  • Response-response relations
  • Stereotypy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Applied Psychology


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