Progressive Ratio and Delay Discounting Assessments for Young Children With and Without Problem Behavior
Weaver, Emily Sara
Children’s behavior can be influenced by several dimensions of reinforcement. However, assessments used to inform behavioral interventions often focus on reinforcer quality, rather than response effort, reinforcement rate, or delay to reinforcement. In this study, I examined two assessments that have promise for quantifying the effects of response effort, reinforcement rate, and reinforcement delay on the behavior of young children. The first, a progressive ratio assessment, focused on response effort and reinforcement rate. I examined the sources of variance in repeated administrations of this assessment using two different tasks in children with and without problem behavior (n = 35). Results of Generalizability and Decision studies showed that task type contributed to substantial variance in breakpoint, but that adequately dependable results can be obtained by averaging across tasks and sessions. The second assessment, a delay discounting assessment, focused on delay to rewards. In young children with and without problem behavior (n = 24), I examined rates of discounting future delivery of real toys, hypothetical toys, and hypothetical money using the 5-trial adjusting delay task. Results showed there was substantial correspondence, though not equivalence, in discounting rates across monetary and non-monetary, and real and hypothetical rewards. Further, results suggested that children, unlike adults, do not discount money less than other commodities. Implications for practice and future directions for examining the validity of both assessments are discussed.