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Maladaptive behavior and affect regulation: A functionalist perspective.


Clinical science has benefited tremendously from taking seriously the proposition that putatively maladaptive behaviors serve psychological functions, prominently among these affect regulation (AR). These functionalist accounts have not only advanced basic clinical science, but also formed the bedrock for the development of effective treatments. Drawing heavily on reinforcement learning theory, we aim to elucidate functional relationships between maladaptive behavior and AR. Specifically, we take the view that maladaptive behaviors are frequently motivated and reinforced by hedonic AR functions (i.e., decreasing negative affect and increasing positive affect) but are also susceptible to becoming stimulus-bound habits. We review empirical evidence related to one such behavior, nonsuicidal self-injury. We close with a brief reflection on future directions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

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