Negative reinforcement (i.e., escape from or avoidance of instructions) has been identified as one of the leading variables responsible for the maintenance of destructive behavior exhibited by individuals with developmental disabilities. Several treatments have been developed to reduce destructive behavior maintained by negative reinforcement. These treatment programs are all similar in that the response-reinforcer relationship responsible for maintaining destructive behavior is disrupted (i.e., extinction is in place). However, they differ with respect to how reinforcers are programmed for delivery. Escape extinction does not program reinforcement delivery. Noncontingent reinforcement, or noncontingent escape (NCE) specifies the delivery of breaks on a time-based schedule. The breaks are delivered regardless of the individual's behavior. Differential negative reinforcement of other behavior (DNRO) specifies the delivery of reinforcers contingent on pre-specified time periods in the absence of destructive behavior. And, differential negative reinforcement of alternative behavior/compliance (DNRA-C) specifies the delivery of reinforcers contingent on compliance with instruction in the absence of destructive behavior. Each of these approaches to treatment has been associated with increases in compliance, even though this behavior is not always targeted for change. One question that arises is whether the increase in compliance that occurs when compliance is targeted by the intervention (DNRA-C) is more durable (i.e., persists longer) than compliance that occurs when compliance is not targeted by the intervention (i.e., NCE and DNRO). The purpose of the current study is to evaluate the persistence of compliance following each of these treatment approaches. Results will have implication for how to best design treatments for destructive behavior that exhibited by individuals with developmental disabilities that may be more durable to treatment challenges (i.e., poor implementation or brief periods of time without treatment in place).
The proposed research is relevant to the treatment of severe challenging behavior exhibited by individuals with developmental disabilities. It will provide information on how to design treatments that are resilient and have lasting impact.