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Behaviour Modification

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Behaviour Modification

Bullying can be rife in certain establishments, much to the detriment of those who attend and those who monitor it. Have you ever wondered how bullies who act in aggressive and destructive ways can have their behaviour changed? Behaviour modification theory seeks to solve this question, offering ways to improve interpersonal relations between students and school-aged children.

Behaviour modification can be used in several different ways, ranging from formal interventions to complex systemic programmes. Let's take a look at some of the most notable examples.

Behaviour Modification, A bully stands over their victim, StudySmarterBullying behaviours are common in institutions, and many seek to modify these behaviours, freesvg.org

Behaviour Modification Theory

Behaviour modification theory for bullying uses various behaviour modification techniques to tackle undesirable actions enacted by bullies on their victims. It concerns the ability to modify behaviour that society, and in this case, institutions (schools in most instances) deem harmful.

Typically, behaviour modification utilises theories revolving around operant conditioning (the behaviourist approach), by encouraging positive behaviours through positive reinforcement and discouraging negative behaviours through negative reinforcement.

Behaviour Modification Techniques

Various techniques have been employed to tackle bullying behaviours with different rates of success. We can determine how effective each technique is through careful consideration of the tactics they employ and evaluating the results they achieve in the institutions they have been used in.

Behaviour Modification Examples

Behaviour modification examples for bullying that have gained traction in school systems include:

  1. CAPSLE (Creating A Peaceful School Learning Environment)
  2. Olweus bullying prevention programme
  3. Social Skills Training

CAPSLE

CAPSLE (Creating A Peaceful School Learning Environment) is a method that aims to more comprehensively understand and tackle bullying and aggressive behaviour in schools by focusing on the wider student body. CAPSLE concentrates not only on the bully and the victim of the bullying but also on bystanders and the power dynamics at play that can allow bullying to take root and become a big problem.

CAPSLE aims to decrease rates of aggression and make the classroom a more productive space for learning.

A critical aspect of CAPSLE is mentalising, which is the ability to understand the current mindset of others.

  • Successful mentalising could result in someone developing the ability to imagine the mental state of others accurately, or at least in a way that creates good outcomes.

In terms of bullying, mentalising could create the potential for a bully to understand the pain they are causing others. In contrast, a victim of bullying could try to understand what drives their aggression and perhaps even understand how to avoid or deescalate a confrontation with a bully in the future.

Solutions like this are more favourable than simple punishment because they encourage actual understanding.

Real-world use of CAPSLE has found decent success.

Twemlow et al. (2001) investigated CAPSLE use in two schools over a four-year time frame. They found that when CAPSLE was used, there was a decrease in disciplinary referrals, including a reduction of physical violence by over 50%. There was even an increase in 'helpful bystanding', which may serve to stop or deescalate bullying as it happens.

However, some suggest that one anti-bullying program alone cannot improve everyone's experience with bullying and that CAPSLE's approach is too general to tackle bullying completely. Let's take a look at some evaluations.

Evaluation of CAPSLE

Let's discuss the use of CAPSLE, what it does right and how it could be improved.

Strengths

  • CAPSLE's use has been proven to result in lower levels of aggression among schoolchildren.

  • The scheme is relatively cheap and uses resources already present in the institutions.

  • The effects of CAPSLE appear to be persistent.

  • Fonagy et al. (2009) supported the use of CAPSLE. They found that in their 1,345 third to fifth-grade children participants, CAPSLE decreased off-task and disruptive classroom behaviours. Overall, it suggested that teacher-implemented school-wide interventions reduce aggression and aid classroom behaviours.

Weaknesses

  • CAPSLE has not been able to account for differences in income and gender as well as it could. Boys and students of lower household income continued to display the most aggression and the least amount of helpful bystanding.

  • Given the continuing gender and income-based discrepancies, schools continue to see when CAPSLE is used, it could be that its approach is simply too general to solve the problem of bullying and aggression in schools completely.

Behaviour Modification, two happy children stand outside of their school on a nice day, StudySmarterSchools that introduce teacher-implemented school-wide interventions may help reduce bullying behaviours, freepik.com

Olweus bullying prevention programme

The Olweus bullying prevention programme is a technique that aims to combat bullying by involving not only the school but the parents and broader community of school-aged children (5–15 years old). While there is no specific focus on students as a whole, students who are known to bully or be bullied are given special focus in the form of one on one meetings with trained staff.

But how does Olweus actually function? Olweus aims to be a very comprehensive approach to tackling bullying, so it makes effort to address the issue on four fronts. Let's look at what these areas are and how Olweus works by exploring each level of engagement.

  • Individual level: as the name suggests, this step focuses more on individuals within the school. Here students are supervised regularly, meetings are held with students and parents of children affected by bullying and a focus is put on staff intervention and long-term intervention for individuals when bullying occurs.

  • Classroom level: at the classroom level, teachers hold meetings with students and parents, and rules against bullying are established and kept.

  • School level: at the school level, committees are formed to focus on the prevention of bullying and decide how it should be put in place and are then trained, with changes made to the supervisory system of the school. Olweus' bullying questionnaire is distributed to staff and students, and meetings are held with staff to decide on the best way to approach the situation.

    When all is decided, the school then introduces a set of new anti-bullying rules and holds an event to commence the programme's launch within the school. Parents may also be invited to help with this process and learn how they can support the school and their children against bullying.

  • Community level: at the community level, members of the wider community are invited onto the anti-bullying committee. They discuss and decide how to promote anti-bullying messages in the community at large.

The violence prevention works scheme found that the use of this programme resulted in a reduction in bullying by up to 50%, along with other associated issues such as general social problems and anti-social behaviour.

However, it has also been suggested that the programme's effectiveness can differ based on the individuals that make up the student body, so more work may need to be done to ensure that Olweus and approaches like it can suit everyone their needs.

Evaluation of Olweus bullying prevention programme

Olweus certainly looks like a helpful, in-depth approach to solving the problem of bullying in our schools, but how could it be improved? Let's look at some evaluation points.

Strengths

  • Olweus has been found to reduce bullying behaviour by up to 50%.

  • Additionally, Olweus has also helped to decrease the prevalence of other issues such as anti-social behaviour and social problems occurring in school.

  • In schools where Olweus was used, students reported better relationships and mental health.

Weaknesses

  • The effects of Olweus do not appear always to persist. When followed-up, schools observed using Olweus long-term differed very little from control schools in one analysis. At the same time, another study found that its effects were persistent, which suggests that Olweus isn't as reliable as it could be.

  • There is little data on the application of Olweus to ethnically and culturally diverse areas. Still, given its mixed results, an approach that is too general and does not account for differences such as ethnic background, gender balance, sexuality etc could be the issue.

Social skills training

Social skills training is a form of behaviour modification that seeks to solve social issues in people's lives by teaching them helpful social skills, pro-social behaviour and how to recognise and avoid behaviour and ideation that could be considered harmful to themselves or those around them.

Social skills training (SST) that attempts to tackle bullying consists of interventions with schoolchildren who use a mix of social learning and cognitive behavioural training.

  • This involves a series of scripted activities held over several intervention sessions that focused on helping children to develop foundational social skills, better, prosocial behaviour and deal with negativity in their environment from others, i.e, other schoolchildren.

These activities include roleplay scenarios, role/ behavioural reversal and direct instruction from staff. Let's take a closer look at what these activities entail.

Behaviour Modification, a teacher and three students in a classroom, StudySmarterSocail skills training may help students tackle bullying behaviours by focusing on developing better, prosocial behaviours, freepik.com

How does SST work?

Cooperation training is a module in SST that aims to help children to see alternatives to aggression in challenging situations.

  • This includes teaching the ability to imagine the experience of others, empathise with other people's perspectives and express their own healthily, and work together by using skills like sharing. The skills the children develop through cooperation training are important when it comes to avoiding aggression and conflict, and they teach healthier resolutions to problems they may encounter.

Problem-solving training is similar to cooperation training, prompting the children to think about and share various solutions to a given problem.

  • This also focuses on appreciating consequences to attempted solutions, giving the children a sense of agency and encouraging an inner evaluation of how actions and ideas can lead to different outcomes.

SST also teaches children how to recognise anger from themselves and others, and how to effectively control it.

  • This is done by teaching them how to understand the feelings of others and how to respond appropriately if provoked. A focus is put on avoiding unnecessary and potentially escalating responses. Conversational training focuses on teaching appropriate and healthy ways to give and receive compliments and criticism, focusing on the promotion of prosocial interactions, which aims to avoid the creation of discomfort or conflict should someone inappropriately or insensitively compliment or criticise another.

Finally, we have training on dealing with stress and frustration, and moral education. In the former, children are taught how to appropriately handle common forms of stress and frustration such as being singled out and being left out of a group or activity. Moral education consists of the presentation of different moral dilemmas that may have no fixed answer, encouraging higher moral consideration and discussion.

Is SST an effective way to combat bullying?

Attempts to use SST to tackle bullying have found little success. While the skills SST teaches are arguably important, especially to younger students or those who struggle socially, studies into it have only been able to find a very slight improvement in bullying behaviour among children who received SST, if there were able to find any at all. SST could be an important component of a larger, more systemic anti-bullying approach in schools, but alone it does not seem to be enough to fix the issue. Let's look at an overall evaluation of SST.

Evaluation of SST as a form of behaviour modification

Now that we've explored SST and what it entails, let's think about what it does well and how it could be better.

Strengths

  • SST has been shown to have a small positive effect on bullying among children who received it (Koiv, 2012).

  • SST attempts to teach a number of useful skills and ideas and emphasises introspection and mentalisation.

Weaknesses

  • SST is largely ineffective at solving the problem of bullying.

  • While SST's teachings are positive, they do not address the root causes of bullying or the conditions that lead to it.

  • Because SST is highly scripted and preplanned, there is little room for individual differences in students to be addressed.

  • SST's focus is on the individual and the interpersonal, which fails to address the complexity of bullying and the systemic changes that would need to be implemented to truly rid schools of it.

Ethical issues in behaviour modification

As with any tactic used to alter behaviour, psychologists and institutions have to consider the ethical issues in behaviour modification, namely, issues with consent and knowledge of the techniques being used. Parents need to be consulted and need to fully understand that their children will be affected by the programmes being used, as ultimately, the behaviour modification techniques are manipulating a child's behaviour and cognition.

As well as this, the school needs to consider the goals of the techniques, how this will affect the social situations of the children involved, the classroom dynamics, and if the techniques are being implemented correctly to reduce potential harm to the children (considering how sensitive the topic is).


Behaviour Modification - Key takeaways

  • CAPSLE (Creating A Peaceful School Learning Environment) is a method that aims to more comprehensively understand and tackle bullying and aggressive behaviour in schools by focusing on the wider student body and mentalising.
  • CAPSLE has been found to be successful in the long term, but it isn't very effective at all in some cases, which could be because of its general approach.
  • The Olweus bullying prevention programme is a technique that aims to combat bullying by involving not only the school but the parents and broader community of school-aged children. Olweus works by assessing and making changes to individuals (students), the classroom, the school and the wider community. Students who bully or are being bullied are given special attention.
  • Social Skills Training (SST) teaches social skills, prosocial behaviour and how to identify and handle negativity from within and from others.
  • SST uses coaching, scripted roleplays, and other techniques to cover important social areas such as cooperation, problem-solving, conversation, anger, stress management, and moral dilemmas.

Frequently Asked Questions about Behaviour Modification

Behaviour modification is when techniques and approaches are used to modify harmful behaviour.

Cognitive behaviour modification focuses on identifying and addressing negative self-talk.

In psychology, behaviour modification is when techniques and approaches are used to modify harmful behaviour, which can include bullying behaviours. 

Examples of behaviour modification include the CAPSLE anti-bullying programme, the Olweus bullying prevention programme and Social Skills Training. 

The four means of modifying behaviour are positive punishment, negative punishment, positive reinforcement, and negative reinforcement

Final Behaviour Modification Quiz

Question

What is behaviour modification?

Show answer

Answer

Behaviour modification is when techniques and approaches are used to modify harmful behaviour.

Show question

Question

What is CAPSLE?

Show answer

Answer

CAPSLE is a method that aims to more comprehensively understand and tackle bullying by focusing on the wider student body.

Show question

Question

What is mentalising?

Show answer

Answer

Mentalising is the ability to understand the current mindset of others.

Show question

Question

How can mentalising help with bullying?

Show answer

Answer

Mentalising could create the potential for a bully to really understand the pain they are causing others, while a victim of bullying could try to understand what drives their aggression

Show question

Question

Does CAPSLE work?

Show answer

Answer

Twemlow et al. (2001) found that when CAPSLE was used, there was a decrease in disciplinary referrals, including a decrease in physical violence by over 50%

Show question

Question

What does CAPSLE stand for?

Show answer

Answer

CAPSLE (Creating A Peaceful School Learning Environment)  

Show question

Question

Is CAPSLE an effective programme?

Show answer

Answer

  • CAPSLE's use has been proven to result in lower levels of aggression among schoolchildren.
  • The scheme is relatively cheap and uses resources already present in the institutions. 
  • The effects of CAPSLE appear to be persistent.
  • Fonagy et al. (2009) supported the use of CAPSLE. They found that in their 1,345 third to fifth-grade children participants, CAPSLE decreased off-task and disruptive classroom behaviours, and overall suggested teacher-implemented school-wide interventions reduce aggression and aid classroom behaviours. 

Show question

Question

What is the Olweus bullying prevention programme?

Show answer

Answer

The Olweus bullying prevention programme is a technique that aims to combat bullying by involving not only the school but the parents and broader community of school-aged children (5-15 years old).  

Show question

Question

What are the four levels to the Olweus bullying prevention programme?

Show answer

Answer

Individual Level

Classroom Level

School Level

Community Level 

Show question

Question

What did Violence Prevention Works Scheme find about the use of Olweus?

Show answer

Answer

The Violence Prevention Works Scheme found that the use of this programme resulted in a reduction in bullying by up to 50%, along with other associated issues such as general social problems and anti-social behaviour.  

Show question

Question

What are some of the weaknesses of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Programme?

Show answer

Answer

  • The effects of Olweus do not appear to always persist. When followed-up, schools that were observed using Olweus long-term differed very little from control schools in one analysis, while another study found that its effects were persistent. This suggests that Olweus isn't as reliable as it could be.
  • There is little data on the application of Olweus to ethnically and culturally diverse areas, but given its mixed results, an approach that is too general and does not account for differences such as ethnic background, gender balance, sexuality etc could be the issue.

Show question

Question

What is Social Skills Training?

Show answer

Answer

Social skills training is a form of behaviour modification that seeks to solve social issues in people's lives by teaching them helpful social skills, pro-social behaviour and how to recognise and avoid behaviour and ideation that could be considered harmful to themselves or those around them. 

Show question

Question

Cooperation training is a module in SST that aims to help children to see alternatives to aggression in challenging situations. True or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

Is Social Skills Training effective in bullying behaviour modification?

Show answer

Answer

Attempts to use SST to tackle bullying have found little success. 


While the skills SST teaches are arguably important, especially to younger students or those who struggle socially, studies into it have only been able to find a very slight improvement in bullying behaviour among children who received SST, if there were able to find any at all.  

Show question

Question

What did Koiv (2012) find about the use of Social Skills Training in bullying?

Show answer

Answer

SST has been shown to have a small positive effect on bullying among children who received it.

Show question

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