Psychologist increases preschooler compliance in study

September 28, 2006

Parents and teachers can dramatically increase the compliance of preschool children who don't obey - and head off serious behavior problems down the road - by closely following a little-known, three-step "guided compliance" regimen, according to new research forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.

The study examined hundreds of directives given to preschool-age children over twice-weekly sessions that spanned six months, testing whether a three-step prompting procedure would increase a child's compliance.

David Wilder, a psychology professor at the Florida Institute of Technology who led the study, reports that when the regimen is implemented consistently, children are much more likely to carry out an authority figure's command.

"It may sound simple, but if parents don't do it consistently, the results aren't there," says Wilder.

Over a six-month period, Wilder tested a little-known three-step prompting system at three different levels of consistency (or "integrity") on two pre-school-age children for 45-minute sessions several times a week. (Wilder later replicated the study on two different children, in a study that is forthcoming.) During the course of a session, the children received simple instructions, such as "Give me the snack item," "Put the toy away," and "Come here." If the child complied on first request, the instructor responded with brief praise. If the child did not comply, the instructor made eye contact with the child by first stating the child's name, and then (if necessary) gently touching the child's chin. The instructor then repeated the instruction and modeled the behavior for the child. If the child complied this time, the instructor responded with praise; if the child did not comply within 10 seconds, the instructor again repeated the request, while guiding the child to perform the activity.

To test the role of consistency, instructors used three levels of "integrity" - i.e., varying the consistency of their responses to a non-compliant child. Some instructions were assigned 100 percent integrity - meaning the instructor consistently followed the three-step model of stating the request, making eye contact and demonstrating the request, and finally guiding the child to carry out the request. Other instructions were carried out at 50 percent integrity - so the instructor was consistent only half the time; and some instructions were carried out at zero percent.

Wilder found that when instructors consistently followed the guided-compliance model, children's compliance improved dramatically - (91 percent for one participant, 79 percent for a second); at 50 percent consistency, the children's compliance improved somewhat (54 percent and 41 percent); and at zero percent, compliance either did not improve, or decreased (6 percent and 0 percent).

"These results have implications for the use of the three-step prompting as a method to increase compliance among children," Wilder writes in his study published in the fall issue of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. "Inconsistent implementation of the procedure, which may be likely to occur when parents or teachers become busy or when they must supervise many children, may result in less than ideal effects. On the other hand, consistent implementation of the procedure may produce substantial increases in compliance."

A parent or teacher's ability to control his or her emotions is also key to improving compliance, Wilder says - the second and third steps of the prompting should be carried out unemotionally, without a parent or teacher raising his or her voice or displaying anger.

Florida Institute of Technology

Related Behavior Articles from Brightsurf:

Variety in the migratory behavior of blackcaps
The birds have variable migration strategies.

Fishing for a theory of emergent behavior
Researchers at the University of Tsukuba quantified the collective action of small schools of fish using information theory.

How synaptic changes translate to behavior changes
Learning changes behavior by altering many connections between brain cells in a variety of ways all at the same time, according to a study of sea slugs recently published in JNeurosci.

I won't have what he's having: The brain and socially motivated behavior
Monkeys devalue rewards when they anticipate that another monkey will get them instead.

Unlocking animal behavior through motion
Using physics to study different types of animal motion, such as burrowing worms or flying flocks, can reveal how animals behave in different settings.

AI to help monitor behavior
Algorithms based on artificial intelligence do better at supporting educational and clinical decision-making, according to a new study.

Increasing opportunities for sustainable behavior
To mitigate climate change and safeguard ecosystems, we need to make drastic changes in our consumption and transport behaviors.

Predicting a protein's behavior from its appearance
Researchers at EPFL have developed a new way to predict a protein's interactions with other proteins and biomolecules, and its biochemical activity, merely by observing its surface.

Spirituality affects the behavior of mortgagers
According to Olga Miroshnichenko, a Sc.D in Economics, and a Professor at the Department of Economics and Finance, Tyumen State University, morals affect the thinking of mortgage payers and help them avoid past due payments.

Asking if behavior can be changed on climate crisis
One of the more complex problems facing social psychologists today is whether any intervention can move people to change their behavior about climate change and protecting the environment for the sake of future generations.

Read More: Behavior News and Behavior Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to