Friday, July 06, 2012

James Q. Wilson on "Raising Kids"

An intriguing blast from the past: The link is to a 1983 Atlantic Monthly piece by the late (and controversial) political/social scientist James Q. Wilson about parenting with rewards and punishments.  Given Wilson's (not always savory) collaboration with Richard Herrnstein, one assumes that the arguments presented were influenced by Herrnstein's behaviorism.  From the article:

"Beginning in the 1960s, a new approach was tried. Owing to the rising influence of behavioral psychologists, foremost among them B. F. Skinner, family therapists began looking at a child's behavior as learned on the basis of the rewards it received. A young boy would engage in rotten behavior if he found it useful. If he got what he wanted from his parents and teachers by yelling, shoving, and hitting, no one should be surprised to discover that he would continue to yell, shove, and hit. A variant of this approach, pioneered by Albert Bandura, held that a child would also learn to yell, shove, or hit when he saw other people doing this and getting away with it. The clear implication of these theories was that the therapist should try to reward the child for doing the right thing instead of the wrong thing. There was already evidence that such alleged "sicknesses" as bed-wetting, stuttering, and fear of snakes could sometimes be cured by rewarding the opposite behavior; why not reduce aggression by rewarding obedience?" more

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