Aspects of the Development of Competence

By W. Andrew Collins; Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology | Go to book overview

use of techniques for training children to impose contingencies on their own actions ( Bandura, 1976; Mahoney, 1974, 1977)--a trend that seems based in part on the assumption that changes in behavior produced through techniques that involve the subject as an active participant in the social-control process will be more likely to produce generalization of those changes in behavior to other settings in which salient extrinsic constraints are absent. Although good comparative evidence is lacking, the existing data in support of this argument (e.g., Brownell et al., 1977; Drabman, Spitalnik, & O'Leary, 1973; Turkewitz, O'Leary, & Ironsmith, 1975; Weiner & Dubanoski, 1975) can be viewed in attributional terms, as a function of the relative likelihood of perceptions of external constraint generated by these two techniques (cf. Lepper, Sagosky, & Greene, in preparation). For most of these speculations, there is no compelling comparative evidence at the moment; my goal in presenting them is to raise issues that deserve further study.

In closing, I should note that these ideas are not entirely without precedent. Nearly 300 years ago, John Locke proposed a similar thesis in his book of advice to parents and teachers ( Locke, 1693):

Rewards, I grant, and Punishments must be proposed to Children if we intend to work upon them. The Mistake, I imagine, is that those that are generally made use of, are ill chosen. The Pains and Pleasures of the Body are, I think, of ill consequence, when made the Rewards and Punishments, whereby Men would prevail on their Children: For as I said before, they serve but to increase and strengthen those Inclinations which 'tis our business to subdue and master. [p. 55].

The principal alternatives Locke proposed to the use of immediate tangible rewards and punishments involved teaching the child to be responsive to the model and social approval of the parent and to view his or her actions in terms of long-term goals that extend beyond particular current situations. Perhaps, at this point, it is time to investigate the utility of his admonitions experimentally.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Preparation of this chapter was supported, in part, by Research Grant HD-MH- 09814 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The report was written during the author's term as a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Stanford, California, and financial support for this fellowship from National Science Foundation Grant BNS 78-24671 and the Spencer Foundation is gratefully acknowledged. John Condry and Thomas Gilovich also deserve thanks for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this chapter.

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