Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Sajeev Varki, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Douglas Hughes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Hammond, D.B.A.

Committee Member

Gert-Jan de Vreede, Ph.D.


Professionalism, Behaviorism, Ethics Code, Human Services, Supervision


The purpose of the study is to identify methods and practices which encourages and enables ethics in organizations providing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapeutic services to individuals with development disabilities. The professional and organizations they represent must protect the consumer, the employees and the integrity of the practice as part of their ethical responsibilities. The specific focus of this research is the behavior analyst and the ABA industry. The behavior analyst is a practitioner who studies and applies behavior analysis, working with various populations such as individuals with development disabilities, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities. The subject matter of ethics in ABA is a constant discussion point, a continuous educational component and a reinforced element of the practitioner’s career. This research intends to benefit the ABA industry and human services in three ways. First, proven methods to encourage and enable ethical decision making. Second, specific leadership characteristics and behaviors that support ethics. Third, proposed improvements for the field at large regarding ethics. A qualitative research design was used to interview participants, representing ABA therapy companies, to gain their perspectives on the subject. As a result, consistent themes emerged from the interviews with regards to the organization's systems to encourage ethics such as education, supervision, the role of an Ethics Officer, the use of scorecards, and the role of leadership being active models and encouragers of ethics. The findings of this study are consistent with previous literature and contribute to the existing literature in three ways. First, the study provides the perspective of practitioners in the field with no filter or narrow stimulus to react to such as a closed-ended question. Second, the study expands on the existing literature on ethics by focusing on concrete policies, procedures, and practices used by organizations to encourage ethics versus conceptual ideas. Third, this data can be beneficial to an organization either starting up in the ABA industry or a long-standing organization looking to continuously improve in the area of ethics.