Behavioral variability as a function of noncontingent adult attention, peer availability, and situational demands in three hyperactive boys

F. Don Nidiffer, Robert P. Ciulla, Dennis C. Russo, Michael F Cataldo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Recommendations about placements for children in need of special education are routinely made and carried out without empirical validation for the efficacy of particular approaches nor the appropriateness of an approach for a particular child. A study was designed to examine a methodological model which focuses on empirically deriving recommendations for the most appropriate teaching situation for any given child requiring special education. Prosocial, problem, and task-related behaviors in three hyperactive boys were assessed in eight prearranged situations: (1) group play with one adult supervising; (2) group play with three adults; (3) group teaching with one adult; (4) group teaching with three adults; (5) individual play with low density noncontingent adult attention; (6) individual play with high density noncontingent adult attention; (7) individual teaching with low density noncontingent adult attention; and (8) individual teaching with high density noncontingent adult attention. Behaviors assessed included adult, peer, and target child attention given and received; compliance; aggression; disruption; task involvement; and percent tasks correctly completed of tasks attempted. Data revealed that the most disruptions and least efficient task performance occurred in the group teaching situation with one adult. The most efficient task performance and fewest disruptions in a teaching situation occurred in the individual teaching setting with high density noncontingent adult attention. In addition. overall mean rates of disruptive behavior were higher in group situations than in individual situations. The data strongly validate the need for carefully selecting educational environments for problem children, and that the behavior of such children is, at least, partially influenced by environmental factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-123
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1983


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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