In behavior analysis, behavior is often looked at using the “three-term contingency” (ABC).
In the above outline, antecedent refers to what happens before a behavior (such as a teacher’s instruction to begin work), the behavior is the student’s response (such as screaming), and the consequence (such as the teacher backing away and withdrawing the instruction) is what happens after a behavior.
As an example, if we are trying to stop a 4-year-old’s kicking behavior at school, we might use the ABC model. If we kept an ABC chart, we might discover that kicking happens most often when the children begin to sing songs at circle time. So, singing songs at circle time is the antecedent that comes before the behavior on a consistent basis, and being removed from circle time is the consistent consequence. Knowing this, the teacher can make some modifications to the circle time routine to make the child not want to escape from the activity.
So, antecedent strategies are strategies that are put in place in order to prevent behavior from occurring.
When looking at behavior in this way, we can also take into account “setting events,” which also may take place before the behavior occurs, but not immediately before. Examples of setting events include being late for school that morning, family problems at home, not sleeping well the night before, etc. We’ll talk more about this in a future blog post.