Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Joseph R. Scotti.


Much of the assessment conducted by behavioral health providers is nomothetic in nature. For example, a primary goal of many clinicians is to determine the diagnostic category that best fits a given client. This is problematic because simply knowing what diagnosis best fits a client does not necessarily lead to an effective treatment decision. In contrast to a nomothetic approach to assessment, behavior analysis emphasizes idiographic assessments. One example is a functional assessment. The purpose of a functional assessment is to determine the environmental variables of which behavior is a function. Although functional analyses are relatively common within the developmental disabilities literature, they are virtually absent from published studies with other clinical populations. The purpose of this study was to develop and assess the clinical utility of a structured functional assessment interview for typically-developed children exhibiting behavior problems in schools. In the first study, two functional assessment interviews were developed and field tested. The first interview was designed to be administered to teachers and the second to children. Inter-rater agreement was evaluated for the interviews and was found to be high. Agreement between teachers and children was evaluated as wen, and was very low. Based on the findings of Study 1, structural changes were made to the interviews prior to beginning Study 2. The purpose of Study 2 was to further evaluate the inter-observer agreement of the interviews and also to conduct an evaluation of the interviews concurrent validity. In this study, the interviews were administered to four additional children, their teachers, and teaching aides. Additionally, direct observation data were collected for approximately 2-hours with each child. Inter-observer agreement was evaluated by comparing the interviews administered to the teachers and children, and the interviews administered to the teachers and teachers' aides. Overall, agreement between teachers and children was poor, however teachers and children did tend to agree on consequences maintaining challenging behavior. Agreement between teachers and their aides was high, overall. Concurrent validity was evaluated by comparing the results of the teacher-administered interviews to 2-hours of direct observations conducted in the school. Overall, agreement between the teacher interview and the direct observation data was acceptable to good. Taken together, the high inter-observer agreement between teachers and aides (both of whom are familiar with the children's behavior in school) and the acceptable concurrent validity suggest that the interviews may be a useful addition to a comprehensive functional assessment for children exhibiting challenging behavior in schools.