Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The complex science of the naughty step

Applied behavior analysis is not an untapped resource, it has often been adopted in a variety of contexts to increase the behavior we like and decrease the behavior we don't since its birth only 50 years ago. One domain for which is certainly isn't a revelation is child behavior management, we've all seen Super Nanny, that naughty step really works a treat. Helping screaming kids and parents the world over. This isn't just because Jo Frost is a complete babe, there is actual science behind her wondrous strategies. A science I could potentially utilize if i succeed in my intended future career as an educational psychologist.

Behavioral analysis works by reinforcing the positive behavior we like and either punishing the behavior we don't or simply ignoring it (removing reinforcement). This can be used with children who suffer from various developmental or educational problems, one simple example is that of children who suffer from ADHD shouting out in class. ADHD is defined by  hyperactive and impulsive behavior, making classroom situations a difficult place for those who suffer, as they often find it difficult to focus on the teachers instructions and inhibit their automatic responses. Behavioral analysis can be used to increase the positive behavior (in this instance putting up their hand) and effectively decrease shouting out behavior. 

One way to do this is via positive reinforcement, e.g. rewarding the child each time the positive behavior is performed via a sticker, or even simply praise. Alternatively the negative behavior can be reduced via punishment.

One common punishment used with children is time out or the aforementioned naughty step. This time out usually consists of the withdrawal of stimulus materials (Barton, Guess,Garcia and Baer, 1970), removal of opportunity to gain reinforcement (Spitalnik and Drabman, 1976), isolation of the child in a specific area devoid of persons and/or reinforcing objects (Resick, Forehand and McWhorter, 1976; Lahey, McNees and McNees, 1973) or ignoring of the subject (Forehand, 1973) and these styles of punishment has been shown to be effective in dealing with a variety of child behaviors (Forehand and MacDonough, 1975).  

There are a few (by few i mean loads) important parameters to ensure the science of the naughty step is ultimately effective, for example providing an explanation for the punishment (e.g. Resick et al., 1976),   consistency of use, level of isolation, labeling of the area and inducing a level of conscious understanding of their behavior all predict efficiency of the naughty step, (Hobbs and Forehand,(1977)offers a full review). So apparently its not just a matter of putting a sign up converting a harmless chair to efficient behavioral weapon and leaving them there until the pastas cooked, its an exact and incredibly efficient science. 

So to finish off by completing the example, a child who shouts out in class and who is punished by being given a) a specific and premeditated length of time on a naughty chair after being b) given a clear explanation for why he is there and only being allowed to leave after c) showing an understanding of their behavior (not to mention ensuring this is consistently employed and a number of other parameters) should show a reduction in shouting out (result!) in favor of more positive behavior which will result in positive reinforcement like praise and primarily being liked. Jo Frost really does make it look easy....

Barton E. S.. Guess D., Garcia E. and Baer D. M. (1970) Improvements of retardates’ mealtime behaviors by timeout procedures using multiple baseline techniques, J. appl. Behav. Anal. 3.17-84. 

Forehand R. (1973) Teacher recording of deviant behavior: A stimulus for behavior change, J. Behav. Ther. & Exp. Psychiaf. 4.39-40. 

Forehand R. and MacDonough T. S. (1975) Response contingent timeout: An examination of outcome data, Eur. J. Behav. Anal. Modtf. 1,109-l IS. 

Forehand R.. Roberts M.. Doleys D.. Hobbs S. and Resick P. (1976) An examination of disciplinary procedures with children, J. exp. Child Psychot. 21, 109-120

Hobbs, S. A., & Forehand, R. (1977). Important parameters in the use of timeout with children: A re-examination. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry8(4), 365-370.

Lahey 8. B., McNees M. P. and McNees M. C. (1973) Control of an obscene “verbal tic” through timeout in an elementary school classroom, J. appl. Behav. Anal. 6, 101-114.

Resick P. A., Forehand R. and McWhorter A. Q. (1976) The effect of parental treatment of one child on an untreated sibling, Behav. Therapy 7.544-548 

Spitalnik R. and Drabman R. (1976) A classroom timeout procedure for retarded children, J. Behav. Ther. & Exp. Psychiat. 7, 17-21. 

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