David J Carey
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Understanding Behavior

Challenging Behaviour | Challenging_Behaviour_III


Perspectives on Challenging Behaviour


The response to challenging behaviour is affected by the perspective one takes to behaviour. The behavioural perspective assumes that all behaviour is learned and shaped by reinforcement. Positive reinforcement increases behaviour, punishment or negative reinforcement reduces the frequency of behaviour. From the behaviourist perspective a human being is a set of responses shaped by the external environment. A cognitive behaviour perspective places cognition at the centre of behaviour. We behaviour according to the way we think, visualise, or imagine. From the perspective the human being is more than just a set of responses to stimuli but is a conscious being, making choices, perceiving the world in certain ways, and behaving according to the rules of logic laid down in the thinking brain. The psychodynamic perspective conceives of behaviour as a result of unconscious conflicts, primitive drives of which the person is consciously unaware, and deep-seated anxieties or fears. From this perspective we are pawns of our unconscious minds, pushed and pulled by powerful forces beyond our awareness.


There is a new model emerging of an alternative perspective from those mentioned above. It can be referred to under a variety of names but is best understood as a biopsychosocial perspective. This model is holistic in that it conceives the human being as a totality of biological, psychological, and social factors all exerting equal influences on behaviour. In this understanding of behaviour the human brain has been influenced by genetic and environmental events and factors and the resulting organisation of the brain is what causes any particular behaviour to emerge.


Whether we are aware of it or not every educator has one of these perspectives about children’s behaviour. Our perspectives become our understanding and our understanding shapes our responses. The more we become aware of our perspective the more we become able to alter it; the more we can alter it the greater the opportunity to come to a new understanding and create new solutions.


The Biopsychosocial Perspective


In the biopsychosocial perspective all behaviour is a result of brain growth and genetic, environmental, social, familial, health, parenting, and hundreds, if not thousands, miscellaneous factors. At the root of this perspective is the human brain. Much has been learned about brain function in the past 10 years alone but it is too early to generalise from this knowledge and create solutions in educational settings. However, a look at some of the basics can help us understand what is going on “under the bonnet”.


All children are born with a particular temperamental constitution. This is the biological, largely genetic basis of personality. Temperament is a given and remains relatively stable throughout the life span. The behaviours we exhibit change over the course of time, some can be suppressed to live a more functional life, but the unique temperament of a person does not change much. Psychologists have identified a number of temperamental factors:


Activity Level-how active the child generally is

Distractibility-degree of attention/concentration when not interested

Intensity-how loud the child is

Regularity-predictability of functions such as appetite and sleep

Sensory Threshold-sensitivity to physical stimuli

Approach/Withdrawal-characteristic response to new situation/person

Adaptability-how easily the child adapts to transitions/new activities

Persistence-stubbornness, inability to give-up

Mood-tendency to react to work in positive/negative way





Each of these temperamental traits exists on a continuum. A child can be born within the middle range of any one or all of these or may be born at an extreme end of the range. All these temperamental traits have value and all can be neutral, positive, or negative. Any parent of more than one child quickly notices the different temperaments of their children and gradually becomes aware how different temperaments translate into different parenting styles. Simply stated, some children are easy to rear than others and it is temperament that is responsible for this. Just as they can be either easy or difficult to rear, the differing temperamental traits of children make them more or less easy to teach. This is nature and it is this natural disposition of children that requires us to create environments at home and school that closely match temperament.


Challenging Behaviour | Challenging_Behaviour_III



Dr. David Carey, EzineArticles.com Platinum Author 

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