behavior modification

Behavior modification facility

A behavior modification facility (or Youth Residential Program) is a private, residential educational institution to which parents send adolescents who are perceived as displaying antisocial behavior, in an attempt to alter their conduct.

The behavior modification methodologies used vary, but a combination of positive and negative reinforcement is typically used. Often these methods are delivered in a contingency management format such as a point system or level system.. Such methodology has been found to be highly effective in the treatment of disruptive disorders {see meta-analysis of Chen & Ma (2007) }. Positive reinforcement mechanisms include points, rewards and signs of status, while negative reinforcement may include time-outs, point deductions, reversal of status, prolonged stays at a facility, physical restraint, or even corporal punishment. A newer approach uses graduated sanctions Behavior modification within the penal system lost popularity in the 1970s-1980s due to a large number of abuses (see Cautilli & Weinberg (2007) ), but recent trends in the increase in U.S. crime and recent focus on reduction of recidivism have given such programs as second look . To reduce the tendency for abuse, a strong push has occurred to certify or license behavior modifiers or to have such practices limited to licensed psychologists.

Often the practice of behavior modification in facilities comes into question (see recent interest in Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, Aspen Education Group and the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools). Often these types of restrictive issues are discussed as part of ethical and legal standards (see Professional practice of behavior analysis).

While boot camp type programs have not been shown to be successful, largely because they represent punishment devoid of context (unlike in the military, where passing boot camp initiates one into the service), programs such as teaching family homes have been extensively researched and show positive gains. Research shows that they can be used to reduce delinquency while adolescents are in the home and post release {see Kingsley (2006) }. In general, these types of programs take a behavioral engineering approach to reducing problem behavior and building skills.

In general, behavior modification programs that are used in facilities or in the natural environment have the largest effect size and lead to an estimated 15% reduction in recidivism. While this reduction appears to be modest, it holds potention in the U.S. given the large number of people in the prison system. Increasingly behavior modification models based on the principles of applied behavior analysis are being developed to model delinquency


  • Kingsley, D.E. (2006): The Teaching-Family Model and Post-Treatment Recidivism: A Critical Review of the Conventional Wisdom - International

Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 2.(4), 481-497. Behavior Analyst Online

  • Santiago Redondo Illescas, Julio Sánchez-Meca and Vicente Garrido Genovés (2001).TREATMENT OF OFFENDERS AND RECIDIVISM: ASSESSMENT OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF PROGRAMMES APPLIED IN EUROPE Psychology in Spain, Vol. 5 47-62.

External links

Chen & Ma (2007) Effectiveness of treatments on disruptive disorders: A quantitative synthesis of single subject methods using the PEM approach. The Behavior Analyst Today 8(4), 380-397

Cautilli, J.D. & Weinberg, M. (2007). Editorial: To license or not to license? That is the question: Or, if we make a profession, will they come? The Behavior Analyst Today 8 (1), 1-8

Search another word or see behavior modificationon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature