ARE CERTAIN DISORDERS MORE LIKELY TO BE DIAGNOSED WITH SOCIALLY MEDIATED FUNCTIONS?
No, not to the extent that there is any empirical evidence supporting such a contention. For example, to say that persons with intermittent explosive disorder are more likely to have aggressive behavior that is functioning to access adult or peer attention is in opposition to the content of this book. The social environment of each individual determines how certain behaviors affect other people as well as the physical environment. One person with this disorder may yell and scream while at work. Other employees leave the person alone at these times. The function may be avoidance of social interaction at times when it is not desired. Unfortunately, frequent exhibition of such behavior will inevitably result in being fired (long-term consequence). In another person with the same psychiatric disorder, the function of verbal and sometimes physically aggressive behavior may be in the context of a spouse, for example, when the spouse talks on the phone to friends and does not pay enough attention to him or her. Such behavior may be maintained by recruiting desired attention.
The role of a traditional mental disorder diagnosis in a function-based diagnostic classification system is irrelevant at best. While such a diagnosis may be useful in other treatments such as medication, its utility in a behaviorally based system is nonessential. It could often be counterproductive if it sways professional personnel from examining behavioral function.Adult/Staff Attention. “He does it for my attention! He even likes negative attention.” Not all problem behaviors function to access attention, as some people would have us believe. But in some circumstances, it is true. Problem behaviors that successfully access teacher, parent, or care provider attention are strengthened when the child or client is in need of such attention. Concurrently, other behaviors in the child or client’s repertoire that are less effective or efficient in producing such desired events become weakened. For children, attention from parents, teachers, care providers, or staff at facilities can serve as the function for behavior (both appropriate and inappropriate) under a deprivation EO with respect to such attention. For clients in facilities, staff attention is sometimes the maintaining variable in target undesired behavior.
The form of behavior that results in adult attention is determined by the specific social environment. For example, in one situation, a smile from a man may evoke eye contact and a smile back from an interested female walking past this man. However, the same smile from this man has no effect on another woman next to whom he sits down. Later on, the same behavior from this man results in a frown of disgust from a married woman in the restaurant. If the smile produces a fair number of acceptable social responses, this man is more likely to smile than exhibit other behaviors when seeking someone’s attention. As a side note, certain elements/stimuli of the social context may develop discriminative properties over this man’s behavior for someone’s attention over time. For example, he may learn to smile only when the female shows initial interest (i.e., makes eye contact with him).
Problem behaviors maintained by adult attention can take many forms, from innocuous minor behaviors such as giggling, to behaviors that cause great disruption, such as severe tantrums, aggression to others, and running away. For attention to be the function, the problem behavior should reliably produce teacher attention under the relevant deprivation EO, and this temporal relationship should be observed. For example, in the face of a child wanting attention, the problem behavior becomes more effective or efficient at getting the adult’s attention than other behaviors, either desirable or undesirable.