Causes of Challenging Behavior
Behavior can be referred to as how humans conduct themselves. (REF) Therefore, challenging behavior refers to difficulty behaviors that can be shown by children or adults, especially those with a learning disability. It may come in the form of aggression like hitting things, self-injury such as head banging, destruction like throwing objects and other behaviors.
Therefore, behavioral problems crop up when individuals conduct themselves inappropriately. According to Porter (2006, 16) ‘challenging behavior disrupt the learning of others by interrupting the flow of an activity for the whole group. Such inconsiderate behaviors requires a response that protects the rights of students to learn, supports the rights of teachers to teach, and offers the student involved a chance to act more skillfully in the future.’
There are a number of theories that seek to explain how people end up having behavioral problems (Ayers & Clarke et al. 2000). In this paper, three theories will be used to explain the causes of such behavior and will further state some of the solutions to tackle such behavior. The theories to be used in this essay are Behavioral theory, Humanistic theory, and Ecological theory.
Firstly, the behavioral model of behavior explains that problems in conduct arise from reinforcement of bad behavior through rewards. Referring to Porter (2006 p. 20), ‘Behaviorist philosophy upholds that all behavior is governed by the consequence it generates: if a behavior earns students something that they want, they will repeat it; if the behavior results in a negative consequence, they will desist it in future’. If children are not punished for the wrongdoing by the authorities, they will not discern the inappropriateness of their behavior causing them to continue propagate it to adulthood.
Behavior is also known as operant conditioning. Its major theorists, John Watson and B.F Skinner, believed that all behavior is a result of instruction and imitation for which children are systematically rewarded or punished (Penn 2008 p.59).
Operant conditioning can be utilized to alter bad behaviors. In some instances, it can be combined with interventions based on other perspectives, such as cognitive and biological. Although it mostly results in better behavior, it has the drawback of not changing the attitudes of the targeted individuals. The major premise behind operant conditioning is that rewards work better at changing behaviors as opposed to punishments (Appsychology, n.d.). Examples of behavior that may be improved by operant conditioning are punctuality and maintenance of hygiene. The fact that these behavioral problems were caused by conditioning in the early stages of life make operant conditioning better at countering them. The reason why punishment is avoided is the immediate nature with which it has to be meted in order to have it get associated with the undesired behavior. The degree of severity with which a punishment should be meted determines whether it will be effective or attract resentment (Wheldall et al. 1985, pp. 65–75). In this case, therefore, behavior is reinforced by its consequences (Ayers et al 2000, p. 8)
Another theory for explaining behavior in this essay is the humanistic theory. ‘Humanists contend that young people will both learn and desist disrupting when what they are being asked to learn meets their intellectual, social, and emotional needs’ (Porter 2006 p. 22). Humanistic theory of behavior is mainly attached to the development of the self-concept of an individual. It has a focus on nurturing of emotional needs and abhors punishments while being indifferent to creation of good relationships with others. The problems that may arise from this model include being self-conceited and having no regard for the welfare of others. An example of a deviant behavior in this scope is extreme selfishness. This is evident in the way a person or child relates to others. Such deviant individuals have very few friends and have sadistic tendencies. Their personal fulfillment is their primary goal. They do this with little concern over the negative effects that those around them experience. Since they are not concerned with anything, such as formation of relationships, they might not be aware of the implication their behavior has on others.
In addition, humanistic theory emphasizes on the individuality of persons and asserts that a person is concerned about growth, fulfillment, and satisfaction in life as a basic human motive. The average human has needs with varying levels of importance, whose ultimate aim is to achieve self-actualization (WSU n.d.). These include physiological needs; safety needs; social security needs; love and a sense of belonging; esteem needs and finally self-actualization. If any of these needs are not met, it results in the individual suffering from a myriad of conditions that include the person becoming maladjusted, neurotic, and psychotic.
Furthermore, if the needs are met, then the individual progresses smoothly towards self-actualization (WSU n.d.). This may explain why children that have grown in poverty, where basic needs are barely met, tend to have psychosocial problems. It was noticed that the rate of challenging behavior expressed by children from such families reduced as they prospered.
The concept of self-encompassed in humanist approach has to do with how an individual thinks of himself or herself. This is limited to those individual’s private thoughts. They make sense only to the individual and can never be understood by others. Carl Rogers, a notable psychologist, observed that every human hungers for positive regard. If offered, it induces an ability to adapt and grow within the circumstances they find themselves in (WSU n.d.). This growth results in human beings that are fully functional. On the flipside, lack of positive regards may result in such a person seeking solace in other distractions, such as drugs and retrogressive behaviors. Lack of positive regard in children is demonstrated in form of anger, frustration, anxiety or loneliness, being constantly miserable, depression and sometimes boredom.
One of the best ways to respond to individuals having behavioral problems applying humanistic theory would be to offer them unconditional positive regard. For school children, responses can acknowledge their feelings by giving them tasks, which involve joining in and working with others; cooperative activities; giving them positive feedback; and appropriate, meaningful, and stimulating challenges and tasks.
Moreover, the humanistic approach to managing behavior tries to maximize a pupil’s intrinsic motivation to learn by minimizing factors that undermine this process. Teachers will need to know that the way pupils feel about themselves and their capabilities is crucial to their success as independent learners (Ayers 2000 p.60)
Another model of behavior to be discussed in this essay is Ecological model. Referring to Ayers et.al (2000), ecological model formulates that behavior problems are brought about through interactions between students and their social and physical environments. Students influence the environment and the environment influences students
Beyond the school perspectives, other systems can be considered as influencing the challenging behavior. Bronfenbrenner’s (1992) ecological systems model represents embedded systems that have a reciprocal influence on each other. There are Microsystems that comprise roles and relationships, such as peer groups; mesosystems like schools, relationships with parents; exosystems, which include parents, relationships with other parents; and finally, macrosystems, which comprise all types of systems within a cultural context. Systems influence problem behavior and problem behavior manipulates system. (Ayers et al. 2000 p.88).
Ayers et al. continue to argue that ‘Interactions between teachers and students and between students also influence behavior in the schools. Personal variables are seen as interacting reciprocally with environmental variables in producing and influencing problem behavior.
The response to ecosystem aims at bringing about positive changes in specific systems that will enable negative behaviors to be replaced by positive behaviors. This may include changing peer group dynamics through seating and group plans or changing classroom setting to minimize disruption. Changing teaching styles can also help to tame problem behavior. An example may be switching from authoritarian to authoritative and increasing participation in classroom and school.
The behavior of any human being at any particular time is materially affected by the context in which she or he is placed. Therefore, all behaviors whether good or bad need to be recognized as a joint product of humans and their circumstantial environment. Having observed behavioral problems from the perspective of the three theories equips one with the knowledge to identify different ways of solving those problems. These theories came about as a result of psychology experts being puzzled by the variety of behaviors exhibited by humans. The humanist theory was advanced to emphasize on the innate goodness of humans and their core needs. Behavioral problems occur as a result of being denied those needs, assert humanists. The ecological theory was developed to cater for the interactions between students, their society, and the surroundings.
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