In the article by Vaz, Volkert, and Piazza (2011) from this…

In the article by Vaz, Volkert, and Piazza (2011) from this unit’s studies, an intervention was applied to address the negative reinforcement function of food refusal by a young boy. ( article is uploaded) For this assignment: Use your unit readings, professional codes of conduct, and other resources to support your positions. Outline is uploaded Refer to The Ethics of Intervention for Food Refusal Scoring Guide to ensure you understand the grading criteria for this assignment.


Food refusal is a common problem behavior in young children, with significant implications for their health and overall development. In some cases, food refusal is maintained by negative reinforcement, where the child engages in the behavior to escape or avoid a particular demand or situation. Addressing food refusal can be challenging, and requires an understanding of the underlying functions and ethical considerations in the intervention process. This paper will discuss the ethical implications of the intervention applied to address the negative reinforcement function of food refusal by a young boy, as described in the article by Vaz, Volkert, and Piazza (2011).

Analysis of the intervention

The intervention described in the article involved the use of a functional analysis to identify the underlying function of the food refusal behavior, followed by the implementation of a differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA) procedure. The functional analysis involved systematically manipulating the antecedent and consequence conditions to identify the specific factors maintaining the food refusal behavior. Through this process, it was determined that the food refusal behavior was reinforced by the negative consequences of escaping or avoiding mealtime demands.

The DRA procedure involved reinforcing an alternative communication behavior, in this case, a sign language approximation of “eat.” Whenever the child engaged in the alternative behavior, he was provided with desired items, activities, or brief breaks from demands. This intervention strategy aimed to replace the food refusal behavior with a more appropriate and functional means of communicating wants and needs.

Ethical considerations

The intervention described in the article raises several ethical considerations that need to be addressed. First and foremost is the well-being and best interest of the child. It is essential to ensure that the intervention is implemented in a manner that promotes the child’s well-being and does not cause any harm or distress.

In the case of the described intervention, it is important to consider the potential impact on the child’s emotional well-being. Manipulating factors to identify the function of the behavior, as in the functional analysis, may involve temporarily increasing the intensity of the demand or exposure to the demand condition. While this is necessary to gain a comprehensive understanding of the behavior’s function, it is crucial to monitor the child’s emotional well-being throughout the process and ensure that any distress is minimized. This can be achieved through careful observation, communication with the child, and making immediate adjustments if necessary.

Another ethical consideration is the use of reinforcement in behavior change interventions. In this case, the DRA procedure involved providing reinforcement for the alternative communication behavior. However, it is important to ensure that the reinforcement used is appropriate, meaningful, and ethical. Reinforcers should be selected based on individual preferences and should not cause harm or interfere with the child’s health or development. It is important to be cautious about the potential for over-reliance on extrinsic reinforcement, such as tangible items, as it may diminish the child’s intrinsic motivation and hamper long-term progress.

Additionally, transparency and informed consent are crucial aspects of ethical behavior change interventions. Parents or legal guardians should be fully informed about the nature, purpose, and potential risks and benefits of the intervention. Informed consent should be obtained, and ongoing communication and collaboration with the family are important to ensure that their values, preferences, and concerns are taken into consideration throughout the intervention process.


In conclusion, addressing the negative reinforcement function of food refusal in young children requires careful consideration of ethical implications. The intervention described in the article by Vaz, Volkert, and Piazza (2011) highlights the importance of understanding the underlying function of behavior and implementing appropriate strategies to replace problematic behaviors with more functional alternatives. However, it is crucial to prioritize the well-being and best interest of the child, ensure ethical use of reinforcement, and maintain transparency and informed consent throughout the intervention process. By adhering to these ethical considerations, behavior analysts can effectively address food refusal behaviors while maintaining the highest standards of ethical practice.