Setting Events and Behavioral Disorders of Children and Youth: An Interbehavioral Field Analysis for Research and Practice

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Students' behavioral disorders, particularly acting out behaviors (aggression, opposition, tantrums, etc.), have constituted a major area of study for researchers and a continuing challenge for teachers, school counselors, and mental health workers. A number of theoretical models have been advanced, but learning models have been particularly successful in identifying the immediate environmental events that contribute to the development and maintenance of children's behavior problems and in helping researchers develop effective, practical intervention programs. There also has been increasing recognition that a student's behavior is determined not only by the immediate social antecedents and consequences of that behavior, but also by the physical and psychological “contexts” in which those interactions occur. This article focuses on the expansion of social learning to incorporate contextual variables in an empirically and conceptually consistent fashion. Kantor's interbehavioral field model and, particularly, his concept of “setting events” are outlined. Classroom applications and implications for students with behavioral disorders are discussed through: (a) a review of procedures and instruments for assessing the effects of setting events on students' behavioral problems, (b) a discussion of methods for intervening in setting events, and (c) suggestions for future research issues in setting event assessment and intervention.