A Preference Assessment of Qualities of Attention Delivered from Care Providers to Children: an analysis of “saying versus doing”

Idiosyncratic qualities of attention have been shown to influence behavior (Kodak, Northup & Kelley, 2007). However, few studies have systematically identified individual qualities of attention desired by typically developing children.

Preference assessments have typically been used to identify preferences for tangible items and edibles (Fisher et al., 1992) and are typically completed in vivo (versus verbal report).

The current study used a preference assessment to identify and compare verbal and actual preferences for specific qualities of attention through a two phase study with three children.

 Three males, ages 12, 10 and 5, and one female, 9 years of age participated. The female participant was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and engaged in self-injurious behavior and the 12 year old male participant was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. The other two males were typically developing.

In Phase 1, verbal choices for qualities of attention were recorded. In Phase 2, each child was presented with the same choices (via concurrent operants) in vivo with a parent in a clinic setting.

Time allocation was the dependent variable and 30% of all sessions included IOA. Some of the qualities of attention presented to each child included: proximity, physical contact, vocal intonation, reprimands versus positive vocalizations, type of physical contact, and schedules of reinforcement for their choices.

The results are discussed in terms of differences in what children may say and what they might choose in vivo, as well as a methodology to accurately identify children’s preferences for specific qualities of attention.

This continuing project is under the supervision of Andrew Gardner, PhD

A preliminary presentation of the data collected from this study were presented at an international conference in May of 2008:

Burnett, M.E., Crawford, R.A., Gentz, A.F. & Gardner, A.W. (2008, May). A Preference Assessment of Qualities of Attention Delivered from Care Providers to Children: an analysis of "saying versus doing." Presented at the 34th Annual Association for Behavior Analysis International Conference – Chicago, IL.