Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. R. Wayne Fuqua

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephanie Peterson

Third Advisor

Dr. Amy Damashek

Fourth Advisor

Dilipkumar Patel


behavior analysis, functional analysis, crying, colic, child development, intervention


Excessive crying and infantile colic account for a significant percentage of caregivers’ calls and visits to the pediatrician early in infancy. Despite myriad research studies across medical and psychological disciplines over the years, there is no conclusive evidence regarding a cause for excessive crying in early infancy; as a result, there is no gold standard for treatment. The goal of this study is to develop and test an experimental functional analysis methodology to determine a cause for excessive crying in infants. The study involves the development of an interview and paper-based functional assessment tool for excessive crying in infancy, as well as experimental manipulation of social and sensory reinforcement conditions in two case studies. Following the experimental sessions, the data sets for both case studies suggest a social-positive reinforcement contingency as the maintaining variable for distressed crying. The caregivers were given treatment recommendations emphasizing the use of differential social-positive reinforcement as a management strategy. The analyses of subsequent reductions in crying levels are described. Crying was reduced relative to baseline by the end of the study for both participants. On social validity measures, caregivers reported that the study was beneficial. Limitations of this study include the small number of participants, the possibility that social consequences were a parental reaction to excessive crying rather than a maintaining variable, and the challenges in ruling out maturation as a confounding variable.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access