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The home point system: Token reinforcement procedures for application by parents of children with behavioral problems

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Abstract

Parent-child problems within the home are frequently reported to be instances in which children refuse to help with household chores, bicker among themselves, or engage in verbally inappropriate behavior toward their parents. The present study investigated the effects of a token reinforcement program administered by the parents in ameliorating these problems. Two sets of parents, with a total of five children between the ages of 5 and 10 yr, were taught to administer a token economy within their homes. The parents received instruction in specifying desired social and chore behaviors, communicated these behavioral goals to their children, recorded data on their occurrence, and managed a point system backed with reinforcers normally found in the home. The token reinforcement program was shown to have successfully modified 15 problem behaviors in Family 1 and six in Family 2. In addition, the parents rated all 21 behavior changes as significant improvements. These studies indicated that some cooperative parents need only a small amount of professional help to learn to manage their children's behavior problems with token reinforcement procedures.
JOURNAL
OF
APPLIED
BEHAVIOR
ANALYSIS
1972,
5,
485-497
NUMBER
4
(WINTER
1972)
THE
HOME
POINT
SYSTEM:
TOKEN
REINFORCEMENT
PROCEDURES
FOR
APPLICATION
BY
PARENTS
OF
CHILDREN
WITH
BEHAVIOR
PROBLEMS1
EDWARD
R.
CHRISTOPHERSEN,
CAROLINE
M.
ARNOLD,
DIANE
W.
HILL,
AND
H.
ROBERT
QUILITCH
UNIVERSITY
OF
KANSAS
Parent-child
problems
within
the
home
are
frequently
reported
to
be
instances
in
which
children
refuse
to
help
with
household
chores,
bicker
among
themselves,
or
engage
in
verbally
inappropriate
behavior
toward
their
parents.
The
present
study
investigated
the
effects
of
a
token
reinforcement
program
administered
by
the
parents
in
ameliorating
these
problems.
Two
sets
of
parents,
with
a
total
of
five
children
between
the
ages
of
5
and
10
yr,
were
taught
to
administer
a
token
economy
within
their
homes.
The
parents
received
instruction
in
specifying
desired
social
and
chore
behaviors,
communi-
cated
these
behavioral
goals
to
their
children,
recorded
data
on
their
occurrence,
and
managed
a
point
system
backed
with
reinforcers
normally
found
in
the
home.
The
token
reinforcement
program
was
shown
to
have
successfully
modified
15
problem
behaviors
in
Family
1
and
six
in
Family
2.
In
addition,
the
parents
rated
all
21
behavior
changes
as
significant
improvements.
These
studies
indicated
that
some
cooperative
parents
need
only
a
small
amount
of
professional
help
to
learn
to
manage
their
children's
behavior
problems
with
token
reinforcement
procedures.
Robins
(1966),
in
a
longitudinal
analysis
of
children
referred
to
a
child
guidance
clinic,
em-
phasized
that
there
is
an
apparent
relationship
between
early
appearing
anti-social
behavior
and
later
patterns
of
deviant
behavior.
Moreover,
she
emphasized
the
importance
of
developing
inter-
vention
techniques
to
deal
with
these
childhood
behavior
problems.
Levitt
(1957,
1963)
and
Eysenck
(1960)
indicated
that
the
traditional
child
guidance
procedures
have
not
been
dem-
onstrated
to
be
effective
in
ameliorating
child
behavior
problems.
Recently,
there
has
been
in-
1We
wish
to
thank
Montrose
M.
Wolf
for
his
sug-
gestions
throughout
this
research.
The
research
was
partially
supported
by
grants
(HD
03144)
from
the
National
Institute
of
Child
Health
and
Human
De-
velopment
to
the
Bureau
of
Child
Research,
Univer-
sity
of
Kansas,
the
National
Coordinating
Center,
National
Program
on
Early
Childhood
Education
(OEC-3-7-070706-3118)
to
the
Kansas
Center
for
Research
in
Early
Childhood
Education,
and
by
a
grant
from
the
U.S.
Office
of
Education
under
the
Education
Professions
Development
Act,
University
of
Kansas,
TTT
Program,
Human
Development.
Re-
prints
may
be
obtained
from
Edward
R.
Christopher-
sen,
Department
of
Human
Development,
University
of
Kansas,
Lawrence,
Kansas
66044.
creasing
evidence
that
a
behavioral
approach
can
be
effective
with
these
types
of
problems.
A
number
of
investigators
have
reported
be-
havioral
techniques
for
working
with
parents
of
children
with
behavior
problems.
These
in-
clude
formal
training
in
behavioral
principles
(Hall,
Cristler,
Cranston,
and
Tucker,
1970;
Hall,
Axelrod,
Tyler,
Grief,
Jones,
and
Robert-
son,
1972),
reprogramming
the
social
environ-
ment
(Patterson,
McNeal,
Hawkins,
and
Phelps,
1967),
behavioral
contracting
(Stuart,
1971),
and
training
the
parents
in
the
home
setting
(Bernal,
1969;
Hawkins,
Peterson,
Schweid,
and
Bijou,
1966;
O'Leary,
O'Leary,
and
Becker,
1967;
Tharp
and
Wetzel,
1969;
Wahler,
Win-
kel,
Peterson,
and
Morrison,
1965;
Wahler,
1969;
and
Zeilberger,
Sampen,
and
Sloane,
1968).
Studies
of
token
reinforcement
procedures
with
predelinquent
boys
(Phillips,
1968;
Phil-
lips,
Phillips,
Fixsen,
and
Wolf,
1971)
demon-
strated
the
efficacy
of
such
procedures
in
a
home-
style
rehabilitation
setting
(Achievement
Place).
In
these
studies,
points
were
given
by
house
par.
ents
contingent
upon
specified
appropriate
be-
485
EDWARD
R.
CHRISTOPHERSEN
et
al.
haviors
and
taken
away
for
specified
inappro-
priate
behaviors.
These
points
were,
in
turn,
redeemable
for
various
privileges
such
as
going
home,
watching
TV,
and
riding
bicycles.
This
paper
describes
a
program,
based
on
the
Achievement
Place
model
(Phillips,
1968
and
Phillips,
et
al.,
1971),
for
the
treatment
of
prob-
lem
behaviors
by
parents
within
the
child's
home.
The
methods
and
findings
specific
to
each
of
the
two
families
studied
are
described
individ-
ually.
FAMILY
ONE
Subjects
The
three
subjects
in
this
study
were
all
mem-
bers
of
the
same
family:
A
9-yr-old
boy
(George),
an
8-yr-old
girl
(Dollie)
and
a
5-yr-
old
boy
(Keith).
The
parents
were
a
middle-
class
family.
The
father
was
a
college
graduate
employed
in
a
blue
collar
job
and
the
mother
was
a
college
student
majoring
in
nursing.
The
9-yr-old
boy
was
a
good
student
academ-
ically,
but
had
problem
behaviors
both
at
school
and
at
home.
He
had
begun
skipping
school,
rarely
followed
directions
at
home,
and
had
be-
come
particularly
sassy
toward
his
mother.
The
8-yr-old
girl
had
mild
cerebral
palsy
and
was
in
an
educable
mentally
retarded
class
in
the
public
school
system.
She
had
had
extensive
speech
therapy
and
occupational
therapy
by
the
Doman-Delacatto
method
(Melton,
1968).
At
home,
she
was
described
as
hyperactive,
occa-
sionally
engaging
in
tantrum-like
behavior.
The
5-yr-old
boy
presented
few
behavior
problems.
The
parents'
major
complaint
was
his
whining.
All
three
children
frequently
engaged
in
bickering.
Bedtime
was
an
occasion
for
giggling,
talking,
and
general
"horseplay"
by
the
two
boys
who
shared
a
bedroom.
Setting
The
family
lived
in
a
small,
one-story
home
in
a
middle-class
suburban
neighborhood.
The
two
boys
shared
one
bedroom
and
the
daughter
had
a
bedroom
of
her
own.
All
of
the
manipu-
lations
described
in
this
paper
were
carried
out
within
the
home.
Target
Behaviors
Target
behaviors
were
selected
in
mainte-
nance
(i.e.,
household
chores)
and
social
areas
considered
to
be
important
by
the
parents.
The
target
behaviors
were
defined
in
writing
and
posted
on
each
child's
bedroom
door.
For
ex-
ample,
for
George,
make
beds
was
defined
as:
"make
beds
before
school.
Sheets
and
blanket
tucked
in.
No
big
wrinkles.
Pillow
at
head
of
bed.
Animals
neat."
Bedtime
was
defined
as:
"the
absence
of
talking,
laughing,
verbal,
or
physical
interaction
between
the
two
boys,
fol-
lowing
5
minutes
in
which
to
settle
down."
Whining
was
defined
as
"a
verbal
complaint
conducted
in
a
sing-song
(wavering)
manner
in
a
pitch
above
that
of
the
normal
speaking
voice."
Bickering
was
defined
as
a
"verbal
argu-
ment
between
any
two
or
all
three
of
the
chil-
dren
conducted
in
a
degree
of
loudness
above
the
normal
speaking
voice."
Each
of the
target
behaviors
was
assigned
a
specific
number
of
points.
For
some
desirable
behaviors,
like
making
the
beds,
points
were
earned
when
the
task
was
completed
sufficiently
to
meet
the
definition,
or
lost
when
it
did
not
meet
the
definition.
Some
behaviors
that
were
desirable
but
could
not
be
expected
to
occur
all
the
time,
like
Sweep
Rug,
would
earn
points
only
if
they
met
the
definition.
Some
behaviors
considered
undesirable
by
the
parents,
like
Bickering,
could
only
lose
points.
The
parents
also
selected
a
number
of
priv-
ileges
that
the
children
might
work
to
obtain.
Table
1
shows
examples
of
behaviors
that
gained
and/or
lost
points
and
the
privileges
available.
Each
child
had
a
5
by
7
in.
note
card
on
which
his
points
were
added
and
subtracted.
The
card
was
divided
in
half
with
points
earned
on
the
left
side
along
with
what
the
points
were
earned
for
and
who
gave
them.
The
right
side
contained
similar
information
for
points
lost.
At
the
end
of
the
day,
the
points
were
totalled
486
THE
HOME
POINT
SYSTEM
Table
1
A
partial
list
of
behaviors
and
the
number
of
points
they
gained
or
lost
and
a
partial
list
of
the
activities
for
which
licenses
were
available
and
the
price
in
points
(first
family).
LICENSES
AVAILABLE
PRICE
IN
POINTS
BASIC
PRIVILEGES
60
DRIVE-IN
MOVIE
200
PICNIC
50
BEHAVIORS
THAT
EARNED
AND
POINTS
EARNED
LOST
POINTS
OR
LOST
10
10
GEORE
1)MAKE
BEDS
GEORGE
2
HANG
UP
CLOTHES
KEITH
3)
EMPTY
TRASH
4)
MAKE
BED
DOLUE
5)
FEED
CAT
6)
BATHE
20
20
20
20
BEHAVIORS
THAT
EARNED
POINTS
POINTS
EARNED
1)
SWEEP
RUG
10
2)
CLEAN
BATHROOM
20
3)
ANSWER
TELEPHONE
15
BEHVIORS
THAT
LOST
POINTS
POINTS
LOST
BICKERING
TEASING
WMINING
and
the
basic
privileges
for
the
next
day
were
purchased.
The
next
day's
card
was
then
filled
out.
On
the
back
of
the
card,
the
privileges
pur-
chased
for
the
day
were
listed
for
ready
refer-
ence.
If
extra
points
were
earned,
they
could
be
spent
on
other
activities
or
placed
in
the
bank
for
large
activities,
such
as
a
movie
or
a
camp-
ing
trip.
METHOD
Parent
Training
The
first
office
interview
with
the
parents
was
spent
discussing
the
children's
behavior
at
home
and
in
school.
The
parents
were
asked
to
de-
scribe
and
discuss
what
responsibilities
(behav-
iors)
they
considered
appropriate
for
each
of
the
children,
and
to
describe
what
privileges
they
10
EACH
OCCURANCE
10
10
thought
the
children
would
work
for.
A
list
of
privileges
and
responsibilities
was
tentatively
drawn
up
and
point
values
were
assigned.
Ini-
tially,
all
fines
were
set
at
10
points
per
occur-
rence
to
simplify
the
procedure
for
the
parents.
During
the
second
office
interview,
the
par-
ents
were
shown
a
film
and
given
a
paper
(Phil-
lips,
1968)
describing
the
Achievement
Place
program',
the
point
cards
were
introduced
and
explained.
Numerous
hypothetical
examples
were
discussed
to
acquaint
the
parents
with
the
use
of
the
card.
The
parents
were
instructed
not
to
make
any
changes
in
the
"economy"
unless
2"Achievement
Place",
30
min,
16
mm
black
and
white,
sound.
Available,
without
charge,
from:
The
University
of
Kansas,
Bureau
of
Visual
Instruction,
Lawrence,
Kansas
66044.
487
4EDWARD
R.
CHRISTOPHERSEN
et
al.
the
therapist
was
present.
The
parents
were
in-
structed to
try
the
system
for
one
day,
after
which
the
therapist
would
make
a
home
visit
(in
the
evening)
to
check
on
their
progress.
The
mother
was
contacted
by
phone
the
next
day,
before
the
children
returned
from
school,
to
see
if
she
had
any
last-minute
questions
and
to
encourage
her
to
use
the
system
when
the
chil-
dren
returned
from
school.
A
home
visit
was
made
in
the
early
evening
the
first
day
the
point
system
was
introduced.
The
parents
were
asked
to
describe
how
they
used
the
point
system
and
encouraged
to
con-
tinue
using
it.
No
effort
was
made
to
teach
the
parents
any
new
vocabulary
(e.g.,
reinforcers,
discriminative
stimuli,
etc.)
or
any
general
be-
havioral
principles.
The
entire
training
program
consisted
of
teaching
the
parents
how
to
use
the
point
system
and
encouraging
them
to
rely
on
it.
Total
intervention
time
with
this
family
was
approximately
10
hr.
Maintenance
Behaviors
Baseline.
Data
were
recorded
on
target
behav-
iors
for
each
of
the
three
children
for
three
weeks,
with
no
mention
of
the
program
to
the
children.
Point
rewards
and
fines.
The
point
system
was
then
instituted
for
the
maintenance
behaviors
and
on
whining.
Table
1
indicates
the
number
of
points
that
could
be
earned
or
lost
for
each
of
the
maintenance
behaviors.
For
example,
if
Keith
emptied
the
trash
properly
he
earned
20
points,
if
he
failed
to
empty
the
trash
properly,
he
lost
20
points.
No
consequences
were
placed
on
the
other
behaviors,
although
they
were
re-
corded
daily.
Social
Behaviors
Baseline.
Two
social
behaviors
were
selected
for
each
child:
for
George,
bickering
and
teas-
ing;
for
Dollie,
whining
and
bickering;
and
for
Keith,
whining
and
bickering.
Baseline
data
were
recorded
on
the
behaviors
simultaneously
with
the
recording
of
baseline
data
on
the
main-
tenance
behaviors.
Point
fines.
Point
fines
were
then
instituted
using
a
multiple
baseline
design
across
behaviors
(cf.
Baer,
Wolf,
and
Risley,
1968).
That
is,
baseline
data
were
taken
for
three
social
be-
haviors
for
each
of
the
three
children.
Then,
the
point
fines
were
put
in
for
one
of
the
behaviors
for
each
child.
When
a
consequence
was
sched-
uled
for
a
behavior,
and
when
the
behavior
occurred,
one
of
the
parents
would
approach
the
child
and
tell
him
that
he
had
been
fined
and
for
which
behavior
he
was
fined.
After
approximately
two
weeks,
the
point
fines
were
begun
for
a
second
behavior
for
each
child
and
two
weeks
later
the
point
fines
were
in
effect
for
all
three
social
behaviors.
RESULTS
Reliability
All
primary
observations
were
done
by
the
parents.
The
data
reported
herein
were
gathered
by
the
parents.
Occasionally,
one
of
the
experi-
menters
would
go
to
the
home
in
the
evening,
unannounced,
for
the
purpose
of
checking
the
reliability
of
the
behavioral
definitions.
The
experimenter
and
one
or
both
of
the
parents
would
walk
through
the
house
and
independ-
ently
record
whether
or
not
each
of
the
chores
met
the
criteria
for
completion.
The
reliability
checks
assessed
agreement
about
the
response
definitions
only
and
not
about
the
times
when
chores
were
actually
per-
formed.
In
many
instances,
the
chores
had
al-
ready
been
performed
when
the
experimenter
arrived.
On
those
occasions,
the
experimenter
and
the
parents
each
individually
checked
to
see
if
the
performances
met
the
criteria
for
comple-
tion.
For
the
social
responses,
the
reliability
checks
took
place
at
the
times
that
the
behaviors
could
occur
in
order
to
see
whether
or
not
the
experimenter
and
the
parents
would
agree
on
the
occurrence
or
non-occurrence
of
the
social
responses.
During
the
entire
experiment,
768
behaviors
were
inspected,
over
the
total
of
68
days.
Reli-
ability
observations
of
136
behaviors
were
made
488
THE
HOME
POINT
SYSTEM
by
the
experimenter
over
a
total
of
four
different
days-Overall
reliability:
i.e.,
The
Sum
of
Agreements
divided
by
The
Sum
of
Agreements
plus
The
Sum
of
Disagreements
aver-
aged
91%.
Reliability
of
Occurrence
i.e.,
The
Sum
of
Agreements
of
Occurrence
divided
by
The
Sum
of
Agreements
of
Occurrence
plus
The
Sum
of
Disagreements
averaged
84%.
BASELINE
Conditions
Maintenance
behaviors.
Figure
1
shows
the
baseline
data
for
the
maintenance
behaviors
for
each
of
the
three
children.
During
the
baseline
period,
neither
Keith
nor
Dollie
performed
any
of
the
maintenance
behaviors,
while
George
cleaned
his
room
twice.
When
the
point
system
was
put
into
effect,
all
three
children
began
per-
forming
their
respective
maintenance
tasks
on
a
daily
basis.
Social
Behaviors.
Figures
2,
3,
and
4
show
the
effects
of
introducing
the
point
fines
on
the
var-
POINT
SYSTEM
1
CLEAN
ROOM
o
FEED
DOG
1
OL
1
TRASH
01
CLEAN
ROOM
1
0
FEED
CAT
1
0o
GEORGE
KEITH
_
DOLLIE
l__~E
5,
'22
64
Fig.
1.
The
effects
of
introducing
a
point
system
for
maintenance
behaviors
of
three
children
(9,
5,
and
8
yr
old)
simultaneously.
489
4s
s1
490DWARD
R.
CHRISTOPHERSEN
et
al.
GEORGE
10
POINT
FINE
PO
10
POINT
FINE
Fig.
2.
Multiple
baseline
analysis
of
the
effects
of
introducing
point
fines
on
social
behaviors
of
a
9-yr-old
boy.
The
arrows
indicate
when
the
point
system
was
instituted
for
maintenance
behaviors.
NO
FINE
2
z
w
0
ui
m
a
w
m
C,
z
4
wi
490
THE
HOME
POINT
SYSTEM
NO
FINE
31
DOLLIE
10
POINT
FINE
10
POINT
FINE
10
POINT
FINE
4/1
6
6_-
1
Fig.
3.
Multiple
baseline
analysis
of
the
effects
of
introducing
point
fines
on
social
behaviors
of
an
8-yr-old
girl.
The
arrows
indicate
when
the
point
system
was
instituted
for
maintenance
behaviors.
ious
social
behaviors
for
each
of
the
three
chil-
dren.
For
George
(Figure
2),
bickering
was
at
approximately
five
episodes
per
day
during
base-
line
and
dropped
to
approximately
once
a
day
after
the
10-point
fine
was
put
into
effect.
The
number
of
times
that
he
was
observed
to
be
violating
the
bedtime
rule
during
baseline
was
approximately
four
per
day
before
the
fines
and
one
per
day
after
the
fines.
His
teasing
behavior
occurred
about
four
times
per
day
during
base-
line
and
dropped
to
one
or
zero
after
the
fining
procedures
were
instituted.
14
0
z
m
z
1'
0
z
w
Z
w
0
c
U
m
_
Z-
0_2
mwa
491
6r
1
EDWARD
R.
CHRISTOPHERSEN
et
al.
0
z
z
Mm
0
z
w
U
I-
a
hi
Um
NO
FINE
KEITH
10
POINT
FINE
10
POINT
FINE
LMMMMMMMMmm
10
POINT
FIN
2.
:j
-
1-
IE
"16
714
/1
/iS
-3
Fig.
4.
Multiple
baseline
analysis
of
the
effects
of
introducing
point
fines
on
social
behaviors
of
a
5-yr-old
boy.
The
arrows
indicate
when
the
point
system
was
instituted
for
maintenance
behaviors.
In
Figures
1,
2,
3,
and
4,
the
hatchmarks
on
the
horizontal
axis
during
the
last
week
of
April
and
the
first
two
weeks
of
May
indicate
a
period
of
time
when
the
mother
was
out
of
the
home.
For
each
of
the
children,
the
parents
found
that
after
the
point
system
was
instituted,
there
were
additional
behaviors
that
they
wanted
to
modify.
These
behaviors,
"bedtime"
for
George,
492
w
-I'M!
rVIA,
THE
HOME
POINT
SYSTEM
and
Keith,
and
"jumping
on
furniture"
for
Dollie,
were
measured
for
approximately
two
weeks
before
instituting
point
fines
for
their
occurrence.
For
this
reason,
no
data
appear
for
these
behaviors
during
the
first
several
weeks
on
the
point
system.
The
arrows
on
the
figure
represent
the
time
at
which
the
point
system
went
into
effect
for
the
maintenance
behaviors.
The
children
reported
that
they
thought
they
would
lose
points
for
bickering,
teasing,
etc.
When
informed
by
the
parents
that
this
was
not
the
case,
the behaviors
returned
to
the
earlier
high
rate.
Figure
3
shows
the
effects
of
the
point
fines
for
three
social
behaviors
for
Dollie.
Her
whin-
ing
behavior,
which
ranged
from
about
four
to
nine
times
per
day
during
baseline,
decreased
to
one
or
zero
with
the
introduction
of
the
point
fine.
Bickering
decreased
from
approximately
three
times
per
day
to
about
one
or
zero
per
day.
Jumping
on
the
furniture,
which
the
par-
ents
started
recording
about
five
weeks
into
the
experiment,
decreased
from
about
four
times
a
day
to
zero.
Figure
4
shows
similar
effects
of
the
point
fines
for
Keith.
The
decreases
in
his
whining,
bickering,
and
bedtime
disruptions
all
cor-
responded
with
the
introduction
of
the
point
fines.
FAMILY
TWO
Subjects
This
family
was
composed
of
the
parents
and
two
children.
One
of
the
parents
had
completed
high
school
and
the
other
had
not.
Both
were
working
and
had
a
combined
income
of
about
$10,000
per
year.
One
of
the
children
was
a
7-yr-old
boy,
Robin,
and
the
other
was
a
10-yr-
old
girl,
Teresa.
Neither
child
had
experienced
unusual
social
or
physical
problems
in
the
past.
Both
were
in
the
appropriate
grade
for
their
age.
Setting
The
family
lived
in
a
small,
two-story
home
in
a
middle-class
urban
neighborhood.
The
parents
shared
one
bedroom
while
each
of
the
two
children
had
a
bedroom
of
his
own.
All
the
manipulations
described
in
this
paper
were
car-
ried
out
within
the
home.
Target
Behaviors
Both
parents
reported
difficulties
in
having
the
children
do
household
chores.
The
father
would
usually
ignore
the
problem,
but
would
oc-
casionally
become
angry
with
the
children
for
"not
doing
their
part".
The
mother
wanted
some
help
around
the
house
and
felt
that
both
chil-
dren