The use of positive and negative reinforcement in the treatment of escape-maintained destructive behavior

Cathleen C. Piazza, Wayne W. Fisher, Gregory P. Hanley, Matthew L. Remick, Stephanie A. Contrucci, Tammera L. Aitken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


We identified 3 clients whose destructive behavior was sensitive to negative reinforcement (break from tasks) and positive reinforcement (access to tangible items, attention, or both). In an instructional context, we then evaluated the effects of reinforcing compliance with one, two, or all of these consequences (a break, tangible items, attention) when destructive behavior produced a break and when it did not (escape extinction). For 2 clients, destructive behavior decreased and compliance increased when compliance produced access to tangible items, even though destructive behavior resulted in a break. For 1 client, extinction was necessary to reduce destructive behavior and to increase compliance. Subsequently, when the schedule of reinforcement for compliance was faded for all clients, destructive behavior was lower and fading proceeded more rapidly when compliance produced multiple functional reinforcers (i.e., a break plus tangible items or attention) and destructive behavior was on extinction. The results are discussed in terms of the effects of relative reinforcement value and extinction on concurrent operants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-298
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of applied behavior analysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997


  • Concurrent operants
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Escape
  • Functional analysis
  • Negative reinforcement
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Response covariation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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