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Reinforcement and Punishment among Preschoolers: Characteristics, Effects, and Correlates

Michael E. Lamb, M. Ann Easterbrooks and George W. Holden
Child Development
Vol. 51, No. 4 (Dec., 1980), pp. 1230-1236
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1129565
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1129565
Page Count: 7
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Reinforcement and Punishment among Preschoolers: Characteristics, Effects, and Correlates
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Abstract

Observers recorded the sex-typed activities of 49 children during free-play sessions in nursery school and kindergarten. Reinforcing and punishing responses of peers and teachers were also recorded. Analyses showed that children reinforced one another primarily for gender-appropriate activities. Most reinforcements and punishments were received from same-sex peers. Punished activities were terminated more rapidly than reinforced activities. Reinforcements were more effective when they were received for sex-appropriate acts (i. e., sex-appropriate acts that were reinforced continued longer than reinforced cross-sex acts), whereas punishments were more effective when they were received for sex-inappropriate acts (i. e., following punishment, sex-inappropriate acts were terminated more quickly than sex-appropriate activities). Individual susceptibility to punishing responses was significantly correlated (r = - .43) with susceptibility to reinforcing responses, indicating consistent individual differences in children's responses to peer influences. Older children punished peers intentionally (rather than incidentally) proportionately more often than younger children did. Attempts to measure social competence were unsuccessful.

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