Graduation Date

Spring 5-4-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Applied Behavior Analysis

First Advisor

Tara A. Fahmie

Second Advisor

Cynthia P. Livingston

Third Advisor

Amanda Zangrillo

Fourth Advisor

William Higgins


Although functional analyses (FAs) have been used to determine the cause of problem behavior and to develop effective treatment (Iwata et al., 1982/1994; Hanley et al., 2003), they may pose an increased risk of injury to the participant and others when the target response is a severe behavior (Smith & Churchill, 2002). Several studies have explored the efficacy of using response class hierarchies (precursors) in an FA, but fewer studies have explored early sub-responses in a behavior chain. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to 1) identify a systematic process for defining response chains of severe behavior and verify the early sub-response as a precursor; 2) evaluate the validity and relative safety of an FA of early sub-responses in a response chain of severe behavior; and 3) conduct a post-hoc analysis to identify variables associated with the safety of a response chain FA.


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