Tuesday, March 01, 2005

UO Researchers Eye Youngsters' Behavior

The Register Guard, October 25, 1961

If you are a parent, one of the strongest influences you have on your children's behavior is your own approval or disapproval.

Studies by psychologists at the University of Oregon are showing that approval given by parents is a major factor in influencing the behavior of their children.

The data collected by the research gives scientific support to theories that children acquire traits and mannerisms through learning processes, first from their parents and later also from other children and from teachers.
One example of these theories is a basic psychological belief that aggressive acts by children are caused by frustrations. The Oregon studies show that although frustration may set the occasion for aggression, children who receive social approval for aggressive acts have a marked increase in aggression.

This is a part of research which is being carried on at the Child Study Center maintained by the university's psychology department. A unique factor of the center is a mobile laboratory which can be taken right to schools and homes to test responses of parents and children.

The laboratory is a trailer with one section filled with simple games, and another section fitted for a psychologist who may observe children and parents through a one-way glass and record data with electronic equipment.
The trailer was acquired this year to make it easier to test children without taking them to a central laboratory. This research has been conducted at the university for about six years. Directing the research are Richard A. Littman, professor of psychology, and Gerald R. Patterson, assistant professor of psychology.

This fall they received a one-year research grant for $21,352 from the National Institute of Mental Health to continue their studies of how children learn from their parents, and how parents influence children in learning.
They received the grant as a result of work they had done previously under a one-year grant for $7,150. The Institute has also approved a grant of $24,610 for future support of the project next year, provided funds are appropriated by Congress, giving approved support totaling $45,962 for two years.
Recordings of results of simple games played by children are tabulated in an electronic computer at the university's Statistical Laboratory and Computing Center.

One of the main problems of the psychologists has been to develop laboratory procedures and short-cut techniques in psychological tests.

"By going with the trailer to homes and schools we can find out whether these general principles work in settings outside the laboratory," Littman said.

The trailer interior was fitted for the research by Cecil Hinsey. Many of the tests have been conducted by Mrs. Beverly Sonoda. Both are research assistants in psychology.

One report on aspects of aggression in children concluded that "aggression is taught." A paper about this study was written by Gina Lerner, junior in psychology from Eugene, as an undergraduate research project under the supervision of Patterson.

In this study a group of 12 children were observed while playing individually with a set of several toys. For half of the children, the observer said nothing when a child made an aggressive act with the toys, but for the other half the observer would reinforce aggressive acts with comments indicating approval.
Those children who received approval for aggressive acts showed a marked increase in aggressive responses compared to the other group, the study showed.

The study also indicated that boys were generally more aggressive than girls. Boys tended to begin playing immediately when introduced to the toys, while girls tended to examine all of the toys before playing.
Reprinted with permission. Copyright 1981, The Register Guard


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