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Positive peer pressure: The effects of peer monitoring on children's disruptive behavior

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Classroom peers can serve as powerful sources of reinforcement in increasing or maintaining both the positive and negative behaviors of their classmates. In two experiments, we examined the effectiveness of a peer-monitored token system on reducing disruption and nonparticipation during a transition period of a kindergarten class for behaviorally impaired children. Additionally, the effect of providing and subsequently withholding corrective feedback to peer mediators on the accuracy of their point awards was evaluated. Results in Experiment 1 suggest that both teacher- and peer-monitored interventions were successful in decreasing disruption and increasing participation of monitored peers. Experiment 2 further demonstrated that peer monitors could successfully initiate the token system without prior adult implementation. Analysis of the point awards in both experiments indicates that peer monitors consistently awarded points that were earned. However, when corrective feedback was withdrawn the peer monitors frequently awarded points that were not earned, i.e., they rarely withheld points for undesirable behavior. Even so, the monitored peers' disruptive behavior was maintained at low rates.
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JOURNAL
OF
APPLIED
BEHAVIOR
ANALYSIS
POSITIVE
PEER
PRESSURE:
THE
EFFECTS
OF
PEER
MONITORING
ON
CHILDREN'S
DISRUPTIVE
BEHAVIOR
LISA
K.
CARDEN
SMITH
AND
SUSAN
A.
FOWLER
DEPARTMENT
OF
CONTINUING
EDUCATION,
WAUKESHA
COUNTY,
WISCONSIN
AND
UNIVERSITY
OF
KANSAS
Classroom
peers
can
serve
as
powerful
sources
of
reinforcement
in
increasing
or
maintaining
both
the
positive
and
negative
behaviors
of
their
classmates.
In
two
experiments,
we
examined
the
effectiveness
of
a
peer-monitored
token
system
on
reducing
disruption
and
nonparticipation
during
a
transition
period
of
a
kindergarten
dass
for
behaviorally
impaired
children.
Additionally,
the
effect
of
providing
and
subsequently
withholding
corrective
feedback
to
peer
mediators
on
the
accuracy
of
their
point
awards
was
evaluated.
Results
in
Experiment
1
suggest
that
both
teacher-
and
peer-monitored
interventions
were
successful
in
decreasing
disruption
and
increasing
partici-
pation
of
monitored
peers.
Experiment
2
further
demonstrated
that
peer
monitors
could
successfully
initiate
the
token
system
without
prior
adult
implementation.
Analysis
of
the
point
awards
in
both
experiments
indicates
that
peer
monitors
consistently
awarded
points
that
were
earned.
However,
when
corrective-feedback
was
withdrawn
the
peer
monitors
frequently
awarded
points
that
were
not
earned,
i.e.,
they
rarely
withheld
points
for
undesirable
behavior.
Even
so,
the
monitored
peers'
disruptive
behavior
was
maintained
at
low
rates.
DESCRIPTORS:
peers,
token
economy,
reinforcement,
disruptive
behavior,
children
Classroom
peers
frequently
exert
a
powerful
in-
fluence
on
one
another's
behavior.
They
may
ef-
fectively
prompt
and
reinforce
desirable
behaviors
such
as
social
skills
(e.g.,
Cooke
&
Apolloni,
1976;
Hendrickson,
Strain,
Tremblay,
&
Shores,
1982;
Maloney,
Harper,
Braukmann,
Fixsen,
Phillips,
&
Wolf,
1976;
Strain,
Shores,
&
Kerr,
1976;
Strain,
Shores,
&
Timm,
1977)
and
academic
skills
(e.g.,
Egel,
Richman,
&
Koegel,
1981;
Dineen,
Clark,
&
Risley,
1977;
Parsons
&
Heward,
1979;
Rob-
ertson,
DeReus,
&
Drabman,
1976;
Trovato
&
Bucher,
1980).
Conversely,
classmates
may
also
reinforce
behaviors
that
are
considered
undesirable,
The
research
was
supported
by
Grant
#MH-2041
1
from
the
National
Institute
of
Mental
Health
and
by
Grant
#USOE-300-77-0308
from
the
Office
of
Special
Education.
Manuscript
preparation
was
provided
by
the
Bureau
of Child
Research,
University
of
Kansas.
We
acknowledge
B.
Susan
Dougherty
and
Robert
E.
Dur-
gan,
teachers
of
the
summer
dassroom,
for
their
cooperation
in
the
conduct
of
this
study,
and
Donald
M.
Baer
and
Tru-
dilee
G.
Rowbury
for
their
advice
during
the
course
of
this
research.
Requests
for
reprints
should
be
addressed
to
Susan
Fow-
ler,
Department
of
Human
Development,
University
of
Kansas,
Lawrence,
Kansas
66045.
such
as
disruption
(e.g.,
Solomon
&
Wahler,
1973),
noncompliance,
fighting,
or
complaining
(e.g.,
Christy,
1975).
Given
the
powerful
influence
of
peers,
researchers
are
examining
the
ways
in
which
peers
may
serve
as
intervention
agents
for
producing
and
maintaining
desirable
classroom
be-
haviors
(cf.
Strain,
198
la).
Recent
studies
suggest
that
the
use
of
peers
as
intervention
agents,
in
some
cases,
may
be
more
advantageous
than
the
use
of
teachers.
As
noted
by
Strain,
Cooke,
and
Apolloni
(1976),
peers
may
be
able
to
monitor
and
provide
consequences
for
a
child's
behavior
more
continuously
and
contin-
gently
than
the
teacher,
whose
attention
is
divided
across
an
entire
dass
of
students.
Furthermore,
peers
may
be
able
to
do
so
in
more
settings
than
the
teacher
(e.g.,
recess,
lunchroom,
restroom,
hall-
ways).
Finally,
the
mere
presence
of
a
peer
who
has
served
as
an
intervention
agent
may
cue
dass-
mates
to
engage
in
desired
behavior
and
may
fa-
cilitate
maintenance
of
their
behavior
following
ter-
mination
of
the
intervention
program.
Researchers
have
recently
examined
the
efficacy
of
peer-mediated
interventions.
Results
dearly
sug-
213
19841
179
213-227
NUMBER
2
(summER
1984)
LISA
K.
CARDEN
SMITH
and
SUSAN
A.
FOWLER
gest
that
peer-mediated
interventions
may
be
as
effective
as
adult
or
teacher-mediated
programs
(e.g.,
Greenwood,
Sloane,
&
Baskin,
1974;
Phil-
lips,
Phillips,
Wolf,
&
Fixsen,
1973;
Ringer,
1973);
in
at
least
one
case,
researchers
have
doc-
umented
that
the
peer-mediated
intervention
is
preferred
by
the
target
children.
Phillips
et
al.
(1973),
who
investigated
several
managerial
styles
in
a
group
treatment
home
for
adolescents,
found
that
youths
preferred
a
peer-managed
intervention
program
over
adult-managed
programs;
both
pro-
gram
styles
were
equally
effective
in
ensuring
that
the
youths
completed
their
daily
assigned
tasks.
In
addition
to
demonstrating
the
effectiveness
of
peer-mediated
interventions,
several
studies
have
documented
concurrent
academic
or
social
gains
by
children
who
served
as
the
intervention
agents
(e.g.,
Cooke
&
Apolloni,
1976;
Dineen
et
al.,
1977;
Parsons
&
Heward,
1979).
Dineen
et
al.
demon-
strated
that
peers
who
participated
as
spelling
tu-
tors
increased
their
spelling
accuracy
almost
as
much
as
the
children
whom
they
tutored.
In
a
few
stud-
ies,
gains
in
managerial
skills
made
by
the
peers
trained
as
managers
or
tutors
were
also
demon-
strated.
For
instance,
Greenwood
et
al.
(1974)
showed
that
peers,
trained
to
manage
the
academic
behavior
of
small
groups
of
classmates,
learned
to
give
instructions,
to
praise
appropriate
behavior,
to
provide
corrective
feedback
and
to
levy
conse-
quences
in
the
form
of
point
awards-withdrawals.
Thus,
peer-mediated
intervention
programs
pre-
sent
clear
benefits
both
for
the
children
receiving
intervention
and
the
children
providing
interven-
tion.
Peer-monitored
programs
have
been
conducted
in
a
variety
of
settings
with
a
variety
of
groups.
Most
have
been
conducted
in
classroom
settings;
typically
the
peer
who
intervenes
is
either
more
skilled
(e.g.,
Egel
et
al.,
1981;
Greenwood
et
al.,
1974),
or
older
(e.g.,
Johnson
&
Bailey,
1974;
Robertson
et
al.,
1976;
Trovato
&
Bucher,
1980),
than
the
peer
receiving
intervention.
Very
few
re-
searchers
have
examined
the
use
of
very
young
children
or
handicapped
children
as
mediators
of
peer
behavior
change
(e.g.,
Hendrickson
et
al.,
1982;
Strain
et
al.,
1976).
Furthermore,
few
re-
searchers
have
examined
the
competency
with
which
young
or
handicapped
children
function
as
peer
mediators.
Hendrickson
et
al.
(1982)
demonstrated
that
a
behaviorally
handicapped
peer
could
be
used
as
a
peer
confederate
to
intervene
with
more
severely,
behaviorally
handicapped
classmates
of
the
same
age.
In
this
study,
the
7-year-old
peer
confederate
was
prompted
by
an
experimenter
to
initiate
to
one
of
the
three
target
classmates
approximately
four
times
per
minute
and
then
was
praised
by
the
experimenter
for
each
initiation.
The
peer
confed-
erate's
prompted
initiations
were
successful
in
pro-
moting
positive
responses
from
his
behaviorally
handicapped
dassmates.
Although
Hendrickson
et
al.
demonstrated
that
a
handicapped
peer,
who
typically
engaged
in
negative
behaviors,
could
function
as
an
effective
intervention
agent,
they
did
not
demonstrate
that
the
peer
could
function
in-
dependently
of
extensive
experimenter
prompts
and
reinforcement.
In
fact,
results
suggested
that
the
peer
confederate
and
his
three
classmates
did
not
generalize
intervention
behavior
to
a
generalization
setting;
initiations
and
positive
responses
occurred
only
after
the
experimenter
began
prompting
the
peer
confederate
every
minute
to
initiate.
Additional
research
is
required
to
determine
the
conditions
under
which
peers
can
operate
indepen-
dently
as
intervention
agents
and
the
consistency
and
accuracy
with
which
they
will
perform
their
intervention
duties.
Greenwood
et
al.
(1974)
dem-
onstrated
that
training
in
management
skills
was
required
before
peers
provided
praise
and
appro-
priate
point
consequences.
If
extensive
training
or
supervision
is
required
by
the
teacher
to
ensure
that
peer-mediated
programs
are
effective,
then
the
cost
of
such
programs
must
be
weighed
in
considering
their
continued
use.
This
study
was
designed
to
determine
the
effec-
tiveness
with
which
kindergarten-aged
children
with
serious
behavior
and
learning
problems
imple-
mented
and
responded
to
a
peer-managed
token
program.
In
addition,
we
assessed
the
accuracy
with
which
the
peer
monitors
awarded
points
for
par-
ticipation
and
withheld
points
for
disruption
dur-
ing
a
daily
transition
and
cleanup
activity.
214
POSITIVE
PEER
PRESSURE
EXPERIMENT
1
METHOD
Children
and
Setting
The
experiment
was
conducted
during
a
reme-
dial
kindergarten
dass
at
the
Edna
A.
Hill
Child
Development
Laboratory
at
the
University
of
Kan-
sas.
The
dass
contained
eight
children,
ranging
in
age
from
5
to
7,
who
had
been
referred
by
parents
or
public
school
personnel
for
behavior
manage-
ment
and
academic
assistance.
All
children
exhib-
ited
behaviors
that
had
interfered
with
their
per-
formance
in
their
regular
kindergarten
classroom.
Referral
problems
ranged
from
shyness
to
oppo-
sitional
and
disruptive
behaviors.
The
entire
class
participated
in
all
phases
of
the
study;
however,
observational
data
were
collected
only
with
three
children,
C1,
C2,
C3,
who
had
been
identified
by
the
classroom
teacher
as
the
most
disruptive
during
transitions.
Checklist
ratings
were
obtained
with
the
remaining
five
children.
C1
exhibited
a
severe
language
delay
and
oppositional
behavior,
and
re-
ceived
daily
medication
for
grand
mal
seizures.
C2,
who
had
repeated
kindergarten
twice,
also
exhib-
ited
a
serious
language
delay
and
a
high
rate
of
oppositional
behavior.
C3
demonstrated
develop-
mental
delays
and
noncompliant
behavior.
The
re-
maining
five
children
were
similar
in
general
func-
tioning
to
the
three
primary
target
children;
however,
their
most
disruptive
times
of
the
day
were
not
necessarily
transition
periods.
The
study
was
conducted
Mondays
through
Thursdays
in
the
kindergarten
dassroom,
and
in
the
hallway
and
bathrooms
located
near
the
dass-
room.
Data
were
collected
during
a
transition
pe-
riod
in
which
children
deaned
up
the
classroom
learning
centers,
used
the
bathroom,
and
then
waited
in
the
dassroom
on
individual
mats
for
a
large-group
activity
to
begin.
The
transition
period
typically
averaged
9.5
minutes
in
length,
but
could
range
from
7
to
14
minutes.
One
teacher
was
present
throughout
the
transition.
During
intervention
conditions,
C1,
C2,
and
C3
participated
daily
in
a
brief
(1-2
minute)
training
session
in
the
hallway
outside
the
dassroom.
Behaviors
The
target
children's
performance
was
assessed
throughout
the
transition
period
by
trained
ob-
servers
who
used
a
5-second
continuous
interval
observation
code.
In
addition,
all
students
were
rated
individually
by
the
observers
at
the
end
of
the
transition
period.
A
checklist
which
rated
each
of
the
eight
children's
performance
as
acceptable
or
unacceptable
during
each
of
the
transition
ac-
tivities-cleanup
time,
bathroom
time,
and
the
waiting
time-was
used.
Teacher
statements
were
tape-recorded
during
the
observation
period
and
scored
later.
Continuous
coding.
Child
behaviors
recorded
with
the
5-second
interval
code
were
defined
as
follows:
1.
Participation
was
scored
if
the
child
was
engaged
in
the
three
transition
activities.
The
be-
haviors
included
picking
up
materials,
putting
them
in
bins
or
on
shelves,
and
looking
for
materials
to
pick
up.
Participation
was
also
scored
if
the
child
was
walking
to
the
restroom,
directing
other
chil-
dren
to
the
restroom,
putting
out
the
mats
and
materials
for
large
group,
sharing
a
book
in
the
waiting
area,
or
sitting
quietly
in
the
waiting
area
for
the
teacher
to
begin
large
group.
2.
Disruption
was
scored
when
a
child
broke
a
classroom
rule.
Disruptive
behaviors
included
noncompliance
with
teacher
instructions,
contin-
ued
use
of
learning
center
materials,
verbal
nega-
tives,
running,
shouting,
fighting,
throwing,
or
misusing
any
classroom
materials.
The
following
teacher
behaviors
were
scored
from
daily
tape
recordings:
3.
Prompts
were
scored
whenever
the
teacher
directed
the
target
child,
or
a
group
of
children
to
participate
appropriately
in
the
transition
period,
or
to
cease
inappropriate
or
disruptive
behavior.
The
prompt
could
be
task
or
nontask
related
(e.g.,
"John,
put
that
game
on
the
shelf,"
"Stop
fight-
ing!").
4.
Praise
was
scored
whenever
the
teacher
com-
mented
favorably
on
a
child's
performance
during
the
transition
period
(e.g.,
"I
like
the
way
you're
sitting,"
"Team
Number
One's
center
is
dean!").
Rating
scale.
Performance
measures
also
were
LISA
K.
CARDEN
SMITH
and
SUSAN
A.
FOWLER
obtained
on
the
five
remaining
classmates,
P7
through
P11,
and on
the
three
target
children.
All
students
were
rated
on
a
checklist
for
acceptable
performance
during
each
of
the
three
transition
activities.
These
ratings
were
collected
for
two
rea-
sons:
(a)
to
assess
the
acceptability
of
the
five
non-
target
children's
performance
during
the
three
transition
activities,
and
(b)
to
determine
the
cor-
respondence
between
the
observers'
ratings
and
the
point
awards
delivered
during
the