Managing Behaviors & Teaching Social Skills Antisocial Dissertation

Excerpt from Dissertation :

Managing Behaviors & Teaching Social Skills

Antisocial behavior in schools in on the rise and has become a concern in school systems, from both a learning perspective and from a safety perspective, as well. Previously, schools have dealt with such behaviors using punitive measures such as expulsion, or even law enforcement measures to attempt to discourage youth from behaving in an undesirable manner. These programs have had little or no effect on curbing behavior problems in schools. Second Step and Boys Town are programs, which implement a positive approach to behavior management. These programs teach youth alternatives to violence and stress problem solving, coping, and conflict management. These programs have had considerably greater success than their predecessors. This research will qualitatively explore the theoretical issues behind the success of these two programs and take a critical look at them to explore ways in which they may be further improved for greater future success.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Introduction

A. Background of the topic

Historical overview


Problem statement

Research questions/hypotheses

D. Rationale Page

Theoretical issues Page

Practical consequences Page

Chapter 2 - Methodology Page


Purpose statement

2. Organizational scheme

Scope of the review

Chapter 3 - Literature review

Chapter 4 - Results and Findings

Chapter 5 - Recommendations and Conclusion




Antisocial behaviors in school have been on the rise and recent events, such as the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, have given the subject a great amount of media attention and have brought the subject into the forefront of people's minds. No one will argue that the schools of today are quite different from those that we attended, or even more so, from those that our grandparents attended. Schools are no longer a safe haven for students or faculty. Many times antisocial behavior does not turn into violence, however, sometimes it does. Antisocial behavior in any form disrupts the educational environment and does not support the ideals of a proper educational environment. Antisocial behavior does not only have an effect on the person being antisocial, but on every other member of the classroom as well.

Boys Town was one of the first programs to attempt to quell antisocial behavior by teaching proper behaviors in a positive and structured environment. Second Step is a program geared towards preschool and elementary school children, which teaches them effective social skills. These two approaches were revolutionary and more effective than the old method of using punishment to thwart antisocial behavior. This research will explore, in depth literature regarding the effectiveness of Boy's Town, now Girls and Boys Town, and the Second Step program. It will explore the history of the current programs, the current state and practices of the current program and will take a critical look at the programs from the perspective of current behavior management theory. The programs will be evaluated and recommendations will be given for future research and possible improvements on the programs.

Background of the Topic

Prior to the 1970s, behavior management of antisocial behaviors was punitive in nature. When a youth "acted out" they were punished by expulsion, or law enforcement measures. If one wishes to regress even further, in the Victorian Era, unruly students were beaten with switches to compel them into proper behavior. It became obvious to a man named Father Flanagan, in Omaha, Nebraska, that these measures were ineffective in preventing the undesirable behavior from reoccurring. He developed an approach based on discipline and structure in an attempt to try to teach boys proper behavior.

We now know that the decisions that we make are based on a complex set of perceive benefits or perceived costs. Punishment alone or the threat of punishment may not be motivation to avoid a certain behavior, especially if the perceived reward outweighs the potential costs. For example, if a boy gets no attention and engages in antisocial behavior, then the antisocial behavior will still occur, even if there is a threat of punishment. The perceived attention may be more important to the boy than the punishment for the behavior. Those who invented the previous punitive system made one fatal assumption in their theories. They assumed that the punishment would be a threat to the one being punished. They used their own values in determining which
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threat would outweigh the benefit of the behavior. Individual differences will serve to lessen or enhance the effect that a perceived threat will have for an individual.

One thing was certain, the punitive system was ineffective and Father Flanagan recognized its errors. Boy's Town was the first of its kind. We now know that there are many factors that influence antisocial behavior. Family circumstances, peer pressure, self-esteem, and many other factors are a large part of the overall behavioral management picture. Often antisocial behavior is a result of learned behaviors stemming from the family or peers. We now know that these issues must be addressed before an effective behavior management program can be developed.

Boy's Town and Second Step are the subjects of this research primarily because they are the first programs of this type. They are the most widely used. They are more effective than the old punitive system. However, as with any good program, they need to be evaluated from time to time in light of the most current research. There is no doubt that their effectiveness over control groups has been empirically proven. However, it is now time to take a serious look at them and see if there is room for improvement. This is the purpose of the current research project.

Historical Overview

In the Victorian Era, prior to the beginning of the 1900s, behavior management was ruled by the popular phrase, "Spare the rod, spoil the child." Misconduct in school was dealt with in s swift and harsh manner. Behavior management was accomplished by fear and threats. While this may have been effective in the actual management of the classroom, it was hardly effective in teaching children to manage their behavior outside the classroom. It did not address the underlying issues behind their behavior.

In 1912, a Jesuit Priest, Father Flanagan recognized the problem and decided to take a new approach to the old, out-dated punitive system. He decided to teach boys how to management their emotional issues and to achieve discipline in their lives. His program stressed self-discipline through achieving success. His basic idea was that order and structure would help the boys to achieve success, and that once they achieved success, this would be self-rewarding and the boys would strive to do better on their own. He emphasized teaching, instead of a system of punishments for bad behavior.

In 1914, Father Flanagan opened a homeless shelter for men where he stressed a positive atmosphere and helped them to get back on their feet. Father Flanagan's shelter was more than a warehouse, it was a step up and a way out of their situation. In 1917, Father Flanagan and his nuns expanded this idea and began Boys Town. Many of the boys came to Father Flanagan after being order there by the courts. Some, however, simply walked in off the streets. In 1921, the Home was moved 10 miles outside of Omaha. In 1926, the Father Flanagan's shelter for lost boys was officially named Boys Town (Oursler & Oursler, 1949).

In the beginning, Boys Town resembled an institution, or a hospital or sorts. This same type of care was the norm for those in mental institutions and prisons of the time as well. The setting was highly structured and even though a system was in place to teach the boys social skills that they would hopefully carry with them when they left, it was still rather punitive in nature. Father Flanagan offered more reward than a traditional system, but the emphasize was still on punishment. It was a step in the right direction, but now we know so much more about motivation than was known at that time.

In 1974, Boys Town responded to a change in attitude towards punitive measures and began to explore the reasons for a youth's behavior and tried to give a more holistic approach to behavior management. Behavior management became more personalized and less "one size fits all." In 1979 girls were admitted to Boys Town and in 2000, the name was changed to Girls and Boys Town (Connolly, Dowd, Criste, Nelson, & Tobias,1995). The face of Boys Town has changed and many new theories on motivation and behavior management have been incorporated into the program. However the primary focus still remains on providing a structured environment and the tools that a youth needs to succeed in life.

The 1970s were a time of great change and innovation in the field of behavior management. One pivotal study was conducted during this time in Seattle. These researchers studied a group of adult and juvenile prostitutes and found that a large number of them were sexually abused as children. This prompted the beginning of a…

Sources Used in Documents:


Butterworth, F. (1998, July 26). Why the South's murder rate is so high. The New York Times on the Web. (

Capra. F. (1996). The Web of Life. New York: Anchor Books.

Carlson, N.R. (1994). Physiology of behavior. Boston: Allyn & Bacon

Cohen, D., Nisbett, R.E., & Bowdle, B.F. (1996). Insult, aggression, and the southern culture of honor: an "experimental ethnography." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 945-960.

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