Skateboarding: How unfulfilled functions create new behaviors

I was listening to a Tony Hawk interview, in which he explained that skateboarding and the stereotype that police hate skateboarders, evolved from skaters not having skate parks like they do today. In the 80’s and 90’s most skateboarders had to either skate on private properties or in public spaces (e.g., parking garages, parks, business areas). Due to this, police kept chasing off skateboarders and/or arresting them for trespassing. This made me think about how the behavior(s) of skateboarding evolved.

The Function

Skateboarders had a function of Access to Tangibles. They wanted access to the activity of skateboarding and the areas that would allow that to occur.

Maladaptive Behavior

Public Disturbance – Being in a public place or on private property of another without consent and purposely causes inconvenience to another person or persons by unreasonably and physically obstructing.


Desired: Skateboarders wanted to have access to an area with enough space to engage in their desired activity.
Received: The initial consequences were that skateboarders were chased off public property (denied access to desired activities) that wasn’t designed to have people engaging in various athletic activities, which were becoming a public disruption.

Novel (New) Bx

Trespassing – occupying restricted and unauthorized areas without permission or authorization.

When unable to access the desired consequences of accessing an area to skateboard, a novel maladaptive behavior began to occur, which was trespassing. This is what happens when our attempts to obtain what we want (behaviors) don’t result in our desired consequences. Worse yet, our maladaptive behaviors escalate into behaviors that are increasing problematic. In this case, being able to skateboard in a public space escalated into the illegal behavior of trespassing, increasing the consequence from being chased away by police to being arrested by police.

Solution (Consequences that work)

Many communities started creating skate parks. This allowed skateboarders to obtain the reinforcing consequences they wanted for decreasing the maladaptive behavior of trespassing, and increasing the behavior of going to defined areas to skateboard. Now most skateboarders not only make sure to skate at designed skate parks, they typically prefer skating in a designated area, as its reinforced with skateboarding peers, ramps designed to enrich the environment, and is typically free from any aversive stimuli.


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