It is a process that leads to the disappearance or elimination of the problem behaviour which occurs when a behaviour that is previously reinforced no longer results in the reinforcing consequences and therefore the behaviour stops occurring.


Although extinction is an effective behavior treatment, it is most effective when combined with other carefully planned process(intervention) that also reinforce appropriate behaviors. The reason for this is that while extinction teaches a child the behavior not to engage in, it does not teach the child what behavior(s) to engage in. So, it is important to have your set goals and expectations which has already identified the replacement behavior to teach.


When extinction is first used, there is often a sudden increase in the frequency of the “problem behaviour” otherwise known as “escalation trap or extinction burst” before the behaviour weakens or disappears.  Therefore, it is critical that parents are aware of this possible initial response increase (either in frequency or intensity) and should be prepared to continue withholding the reinforcing consequences on a consistent basis. Otherwise the child will never learn how to use an alternative behavior successfully.


For example,

Consider the parents who realized that their attention is maintaining the aggressive behavior being engaged in by their child and decided to use extinction to terminate the aggressive behavior and ignore the child. But the parents get anxious or stressed when the child’s behavior increases and cannot ignore the increased frequency and intensity of the child’s behavior, and so pay attention to him, this makes behavior resistant to extinction. To be effective, all sources of reinforcement must be removed from the problem behavior.