Read & Reflect: The Circumstances View of Problem Behavior (Friman)

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The ABAI Task Force for the Promotion of Quality & Values-Based ABA recommends thoughtful reading and reflection upon a recent article discussing the Circumstances View of problem behavior (i.e., Friman, 2021).

Specifically, Friman (2021) discusses the origins of the Circumstances View of problem behavior, possible benefits resulting from adoption, reasons why its adoption is not more widespread, and suggestions for its dissemination. Friman contends that the “Circumstances View offers a humane and compassionate alternative to the blame-oriented view of problem behavior. The core feature of behavior analytic concepts and research is the search for functional circumstances and the sources of those influential circumstances” (p. 637). Furthermore, Friman notes “all behavior analysts are part of a field whose ultimate intention is to make the world a better place” (p. 650).

While reading (or hopefully revisiting) this influential work, we encourage behavior analysts to consider:

  • How does the Circumstances View, or the science and practice of behavior analysis, described by Friman (2021) differ from other philosophies/descriptions of behavior?
  • How might behavior analysts increase the likelihood of many more people adopting the Circumstance View of behavior?
  • What are you doing to help disseminate the Circumstances View, or the science and practice of behavior analysis? How might behavioral organizations help disseminate the Circumstances View?
  • How many parallels can you identify between the Circumstances View and the description of the dimensions of applied behavior analysis by Baer et al. (1968/1987)?
  • Friman (2021) noted that “Behavior analysts can be just as prone as non-behavior analysts to adopt a blame-laden explanation for problem behavior that occurs outside the specific stimulus control of their training (e.g., severe problem behavior of clients)” (p. 642). What are some strategies you may use to avoid blame-laden explanations for problem behavior?

Friman, P. C. (2021). There is no such thing as a bad boy: The circumstances view of problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 54(2), 636-653.