What Does Chaining Mean??

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Key Takeaways:

  • Chaining can mean fastening something with a chain.
  • In behavioral psychology, chaining means linking behaviors together.
  • Chaining can also refer to restraining someone.
  • In applied behavior analysis, chaining breaks down complex skills.
  • Forward chaining teaches steps starting from the first one.
  • Backward chaining teaches the last step first.


Have you ever wondered what people mean when they talk about “chaining” something? Chaining is a word that gets used in different ways. This article will explain all the different meanings of chaining.

It’s good to understand what chaining means because it is an important idea in a few different fields. By learning the different definitions, you’ll have a better understanding of what chaining is.

This article will give a complete overview of chaining. You’ll learn the various meanings and see examples. By the end, you’ll understand all the ways chaining is used. Let’s get started exploring this important concept!

What Does Chaining With a Chain Mean??

One basic meaning of chaining is fastening something using a chain. For example, you might chain a dog to a tree or pole using its collar and a chain. This keeps the dog from wandering off but allows it to move around a limited area.

People also chain gates and fences shut using chains and locks. The chains keep the gates closed so people or animals can’t get through. Chaining things with chains provides security and keeps things in place.

Chains are made up of many metal loops connected together. This makes them strong and hard to break. So chaining is an effective way to hold something in one spot. In this basic meaning, chaining involves physically fastening with metal chain links.

How Is Chaining Used in Behavioral Psychology??

Chaining has a more complex meaning in the field of behavioral psychology. Here, chaining refers to connecting behaviors together in a sequence. This technique helps teach multi-step behaviors and skills.

In behavioral psych, a “behavior chain” is a series of behaviors that happen in a certain order. Each action leads to and signals the next one in the sequence.

An example is getting dressed in the morning: you take off pajamas, put on underwear, put on pants, put on shirt, button shirt, and so on. Each step leads to the next one.

Chaining involves breaking down long behavior chains into smaller pieces. Each piece is taught separately at first. Then the pieces get linked back together to form the full skill.

This helps learn complex behaviors that the person couldn’t do all at once before. Research shows chaining is effective for skills training.

How Does Chaining Restrain Someone??

Chaining can also refer to binding, fastening or restraining someone with chains. For example, chaining prisoners or slaves with chains to keep them from escaping.

This meaning has to do with restricting freedom and movement. Chains are used to hold the person in place against their will. This type of chaining is about controlling behavior.

In the past, chaining was also used to lock mental health patients to beds or walls. This prevented them from moving around and was a form of restraint.

While less common today, chaining to restrict and confine still occurs in some places. This meaning of chaining is about binding someone’s body with physical chains.

How Is Chaining Used in Applied Behavior Analysis??

A key area where chaining is important is in applied behavior analysis (ABA). This is a therapy method often used with children with autism.

ABA uses chaining to teach complex behaviors and skills step-by-step. Breaking down long chains into smaller links makes skills easier to master.

For example, a child learning to brush teeth independently may find the whole routine too hard at first. So ABA would break it down into small steps:

  • Take toothbrush
  • Turn on water
  • Wet toothbrush
  • Put toothpaste on brush
  • Brush upper teeth
  • Brush lower teeth
  • Rinse mouth
  • Turn off water

Each step gets taught separately using positive reinforcement. Then the steps get chained together, building up to the complete skill.

There are two main types of ABA chaining:

What Is Forward Chaining??

In forward chaining, you teach the chain starting from the first behavior in the sequence. Each new step gets added to the previous steps until the full chain is complete.

Using the tooth brushing steps above, you would first teach “take toothbrush.” Once that behavior is learned, you add the next step – “turn on water.”

Gradually the behaviors chain together in order from start to finish. Forward chaining starts with the first link.

Research shows that forward chaining can be effective for acquisition of new skills. Teaching the first steps first builds momentum.

What Is Backward Chaining??

In backward chaining, you teach the chain working backward from the last behavior. The last step gets taught first.

For tooth brushing, you would start with “turn off water.” Once mastered, “rinse mouth” gets added going backward up the chain.

Backward chaining can be useful when the last step is the most important part or the “reward” step. Building up to the last step keeps motivation high.

Studies show backward chaining helps learn behaviors with a distinct final step. Chaining backward integrates steps most efficiently sometimes.

Why Is Chaining Used in ABA??

There are good reasons chaining is so widely used in ABA therapy:

  • It breaks down long, complex tasks into manageable chunks. This prevents frustration and overload.
  • Each step can be mastered before moving to next step. This ensures success.
  • Sequencing behaviors helps develop logical thinking and predictability.
  • Forward and backward chaining provide flexibility based on the skill.
  • Chaining allows therapists to track progress by counting completed links.
  • Seeing chains grow builds confidence as skills improve.

Research confirms chaining leads to better behavior outcomes in ABA therapy. It makes complex behaviors achievable through small steps.


In summary, chaining has different important meanings:

  • Fastening things physically with chains and metal links
  • Linking behavioral steps together in psychology
  • Restraining people by binding them with chains
  • Teaching complex skills step-by-step in ABA through forward and backward chaining

The idea behind all these meanings is connecting smaller pieces into longer chains. Chaining breaks big tasks down into workable steps.

Whether it involves physical chains, behavior chains, or teaching chains, chaining plays a key role. Hopefully this article helped explain the different ways chaining is used and why it matters!

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