The identification of practical and ethical considerations related to using a reversal design with a chosen target behavior is an important step that has to be taken.
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The design of a target behavior is necessary in order to comprehend how something is done for being eliminated or added in regards to a number of ordinary conditions (Spiegler, 2015).
The reversal design is considered to be one of the most effective single-subject research designs as it explains how treatment may or may not influence the baseline. Still, some interventions cannot be reserved because of a number of ethical and practical considerations.
From an ethical perspective, it may happen that the return to the baseline period creates some harm to a participant. It is also necessary to be sure that a second intervention has enough benefits in comparison to the stability of the process.
Cooper, Heron, and Heward (2007) define authority, permission, resources, and social validity as four main ethical considerations in the reversal design.
From a practical point of view, single-subject research designs do not require too many issues and explanations: it is enough to choose a few participants, evaluate the effects of interventions on the participants, and use statistics to approve the chosen intervention.
It is also possible to facilitate measurements on any stage of the process and achieve the same results (Spiegler, 2015). Anyway, it is always necessary to remember that an ABAB design requires the achievement of the required behavior change more than the conformation that a particular intervention takes place (Sundel & Sundel, 2004).
This is why the researcher should take into consideration both, ethical and practical reasons for the design, and think about the possible outcomes beforehand to create appropriate relations with the participants.
Target Behavior Example with an Inappropriate Ethical Aspect
For example, it is ethically inappropriate to use a reversal design when a 3-year-old child under analysis is provided with a doll as the main distraction to make her play alone without paying attention to her parents. Then, the doll is taken away from the child to analyze the baseline stages before and after an intervention.
In this case, the researcher cannot predict the reaction of a child and be sure that the baseline phase will be easy to identify. As a rule, the child’s reaction on taking away something is unpredictable, and it is ethically inappropriate to use such design just in order to check the effectiveness of an intervention.
First, it touches upon the child’s emotional state. Second, parents undergo certain effects as well. And finally, people around may be distracted by the child’s behavior.
Target Behavior Example with an Appropriate Ethical Aspect
In order to introduce an alternative design for the same behavior that would be more appropriate, it is possible to use the ABC design that allows additional improvements and identification of a new variable that may help to control the situation.
For example, as soon as the doll is taken away, the child may be provided with another alternative (a toy, an activity, or a person). This alternative helps to protect the emotional status of a child and deprive care givers of the necessity to calm the child down.
Still, there are many other options that may be taken into consideration because the analysis of child’s behavior is hard to predict all the time.
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Cooper, J.O., Heron, T., & Heward, W.L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
Spiegler, M. (2015). Contemporary behavior therapy. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Sundel, M. & Sundel, S.S. (2004). Behavior change in the human services: Behavioral and cognitive principles and applications. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.