Fruchter H J: Sensory reinforcement in the service of aggression maintenance in children: a treatment study.
Dissertation Abstracts International 45(3), 1013-B Syracuse University (Pub = AAC8410711): 124, 1983.
Abstract: A conceptual framework is presented which indicates that certain aggressive behaviors in children, once established, may be maintained by the sensory consequences which they effect. Literature is reviewed on the concepts of sensory reinforcement in animals, the treatment of self-injurious behaviors in autistic children, the relationship between solitary toy play and aggressive behaviors, the Neurolinguistic Programming theory of preferred sensory modes, and on modeling vs. sensory feedback in experimentally-induced aggression. Comprehensively, this research suggests utilizing the principles of naturally-occurring visual, auditory, or proprioceptive reinforcers to both reduce levels of aggressive behavior and to simultaneously increase other, more adaptive alternatives, e.g. toy play. A study is presented in which sensory extinction and sensory reinforcement principles were employed within an experimental setting to modify the aggressive behaviors of six boys. A single-subject research design was utilized in order to evaluate the efficacy of these procedures for each of the six children. The first phase of the study consisted of sessions in which each subject's aggressive behavior was monitored alternately under baseline and sensory extinction experimental conditions. Subjects were then trained in toy play which theoretically could provide each subject with sensory feedback along each of the different sensory modalities. Finally, each subject's aggressive and toy play behaviors were monitored in the absence of experimental contingencies, in order to determine if toy play behavior would substitute for aggressive behaviors. This last condition was reinstated at two and four weeks post-treatment in order to evaluate the maintenance across time of any behavioral change. The results of the study in general did not support the original hypotheses. While sensory extinction procedures did modify the aggressive behavior of some of the subjects, this effect was shortlived and toy play behavior did not appreciably substitute for aggression. Several plausible hypotheses are discussed which may account for these findings. Finally, suggestions are made for future research in this area.