Punishment has generated as one of the most effective technique for suppressing social behavior, and also one of the most controversial.

Punishment is a reduction in the likelihood of a response due to the presentation of an aversive stimulus. Does it really work? Research has shown that the use of punishment on children with developmental disabilities has helped to eliminate self-injuries and self-stimulating behaviors as well as in suppressing an undesirable behavior temporarily. A punishment that immediately follows the behavior that you want to suppress is effective as well. If a punishment is perceived as fair or reasonable, it may be considerably more effective as explanation helps to clarify which response was punished. It is blatant that when punishment is delivered in a variety of setting, accompanied by a clear explanation, it can be a very powerful tool for elimating undesirable behaviour.

On the contrary, punishments elicit emotional reaction such as fear and anger and aversive stimuli directly elicit aggression. So, effectiveness of punishment remains intensely controversial.Punishment is one of society's oldest techniques for controlling behaviour (Lieberman, 1993) and it is also being used to modify undesired behaviours. Punishment can be carried out in many different ways which not necessarily involve physical pain.

The effectiveness of punishment to control and modify behaviour is one that is controversial. There have been many cases where the use of punishment on children with developmental disabilities has helped to eliminate self-injuries and self stimulating behaviors. Many other times, the administering of punishment only served to decrease or stop a behaviour temporarily (Miltenberger, 2001). However, most people still believe that punishment works because they use it in their everyday life and are themselves subjected to it.This essay will go further in depth to cover what punishment is and its effectiveness particularly with the focus on children.

It will also highlight how punishment works for certain children but not for others and instead cause more negative consequences to them.Defining punishment and how it worksPunishment as a behaviour management technique refers to the administration or removal of a stimulus after a behaviour occurs in order to decrease the future occurrence of the behaviour (Maag, 1999). Punishment can be divided into two categories, positive and negative punishment. The difference between positive and negative punishment is that while positive punishment involve the presentation of an adverse stimulus, negative punishment involves the removal of a reinforcing stimulus. Punishment does not necessarily involve physical pain.

Positive punishment like spanking causes pain while taking away the child's allowance is an example of a negative punishment that does not inflict any physical pain on the child.Punishment is often used to suppress unwanted behaviour. Psychologists believe that when an adverse stimulus is linked with a particular behaviour or the removal of a desired stimulus or positive reinforcer can over time lead to an 'automatic' learned response to avoid the behaviour. There are many forms of punishment from the mild scolding to the severe administration of electric shocks.

The right form of punishment has to be used and applied with the right degree in order to achieve the desired result to eliminate the unwanted behaviour.The effectiveness of punishment depends on its ability to reduce and ultimately remove the unwanted behaviour. The more carefully we apply punishment, the less often it will be needed because the behaviour will decline faster (Sarafino, 2001). There are many factors that can influence the effectiveness of punishment.

Punishment is more effective when it is delivered immediately after the target response than when it is delayed (Kazdin, 2001). Punishment can then be linked with the associated response that is to be suppressed. Punishment is also most effective when the punishing stimulus occurs every time the behaviour occurs (Miltenberger, 2001). The undesired behaviour can then be always linked to punishment and the behaviour will over time be avoided.

The effects of punishment can also be enhanced by removing the source of reinforcement for the punished response (Kazdin, 2001). If a punishment is followed by reinforcement then the punishment may not produce its full impact on the behaviour to be suppressed. Punishment should also be varied so that adaptation to the punishment can be avoided thus increasing its effectiveness. There are many more ways that can influence the effectiveness of punishment however, a consequence that is punishing to one individual may actually be reinforcing to a different individual. Therefore, the effectiveness of any particular punishment is a highly individual matter and we can't know for sure until we see what happens to the frequency of the behavior it follows (Friedman ; Brinker, 2001).

Punishment works on childrenThere have been many forms of punishment techniques that successfully suppress unwanted behaviours. In the 1960s, the use of painful electric shock as a punisher in behavioural methods was pioneered in interventions with children with developmental disabilities, mainly to eliminate self-injurious and self-stimulating behaviours (Sarafino, 2001). In a clinical study reported by Bucher and Lovaas (1968, cited in Liberman, 1993), electric shock was used to successfully treat John, a 7 year-old autistic child from his self-destructive behaviour. When John was removed from restraint, he would immediately hit his head against the crib, beat his head with his fist and scream.He had to be hospitalised and kept in physical restraint 24 hours a day.

The treatment was such that John would be brought to a special room once a day where his restraints were removed and he was given immediate electric shocks every time he hit himself. Different experimenters were present in the test on different days. Initially only one experimenter would administer electric shocks and whenever this experimenter was there, John's self-destructive level was very low but when the other experimenters were present, his self-destructive level increased in frequency. Soon, all experimenters were told to use punishment and Bucher and Lovass were able to completely eliminate John's response that used to occur several thousand times a day for more than five years. According to Liberman (1993), similar results have been achieved with the other autistic children treated.

Due to humanitarian reasons and because of their side effects on behaviour, the use of strongly aversive stimuli is highly controversial and is only used when all other approaches have failed and the behaviour must be suppressed quickly like in the case of John (Sarafino, 2001). Milder forms of physically aversive stimuli are less controversial punishers and have been used successfully to remove undesired behaviours. Mild electric shock was used as punishment to effectively to suppress dangerous and life threatening behaviour of a 9-month-old infant who engaged in ruminative vomiting (Linscheid ; Cunningham, 1997 cited in Kazdin, 2001).Vomiting had resulted in severe weight loss, malnutrition, and potentially fatal medical complications. The shock was applied (intense enough to evoke a startle reaction but not crying) when the infant vomited and vomiting dropped from an average of 100 instances per day to 1 instance per day after only 3 days of treatment. Follow-up evaluation nine months after the infant was released from hospital showed that ruminative vomiting no longer occurred and weight gained increase.

Other mild forms of physically aversive punishers like squirting a small amount of lemon juice into the mouth of a six-month-old infant every time she vomited her food has helped to treat her of chronic ruminating (Sajwaj, Libet ; Agras, 1974 cited in Miltenberger, 2001). Punishment worked.A negative punishment technique known as time-out was also successfully used to eliminate undesired behaviour. Clark, Rowbury, Baer, and Baer (1973, cited in Miltenberger, 2001) used time-out to decrease aggressive and distruptive behaviour in an 8-year-old girl with Down syndrome. Each time the girl engaged in the problem behaviour in the classroom, she had to sit by herself in a small time-out room for 3 minutes. Her problem behaviour decreased immediately as being in time-out caused her to loose the reinforcers present in the classroom.

Another punishment technique known as response cost has also successfully been used to suppress unwanted behaviour. A study by Phillips, Phillips, Fixsen and Wolf (1997, cited in Miltenberger, 2001) on "predelinquent" youths in a residential treatment program earned points for engaging in appropriate behaviour and traded their points for backup reinforcers such as snacks, money and privileges. When the youths arrived late, they lost some of the points they had earned. As a result, late arrivals decreased until the youths always showed up on time. Punishment again worked.Punishment does not work on childrenAbout 56 percent of American parents use physical punishment on their children (Schmidt, 1996).

Parents use punishment on their children with the goal of helping the child learn how to regulate or control their own behaviour and not to intimidate them which often becomes the case. This is because when children are very young, they don't understand why they're being punished. An article by the Department of Community development in Western Australia (CDC-WA) mentions that physical punishment tells you what not to do but does not tell you what to do. In two studies (Morris ; Redd, 1975; Redd, Morris ; Martin, 1975, cited in Kazdin 2001), children were exposed to adults who administered different consequences during play activities.Subsequently, the children were asked to choose the adults with whom they wished to interact. The adults associated with delivery of punishment (reprimands) were not selected for further interactions while those who had been associated with positive reinforcement (praise) were frequently selected.

In the same article by CDC-WA, they also mention that when a boy is strongly punished for coming home late from school, the next time he is running late, he might decide that it is better not to return home at all. Sometimes, children may also lie to avoid punishment. Thus punishment not only did not suppress the unwanted behaviour but instead may bring about other problems. All these also show that children will fear and avoid the punisher or even avoid the situation that might cause them punishment.Punishment in many cases may seem to be successful and parents and teachers continue to use this method on children because it stops the undesirable behaviour when it occurs. However, punishment techniques like using spanking sometimes only eliminates the undesirable behaviour temporarily.

Miltenberger (2001) illustrates a case where 5-year-old Juan boy, teases and hits his sisters until they cry and his mother scolds him and spanks him each time he teases and scolds his sisters. Juan stops teasing and scolding his sisters at the moment he received a spanking from his mother but it did not stop him from hitting his sister in future. In this case, although using punishment did stop the behaviour temporarily, it did not eliminate the unwanted behaviour and the behaviour continued to surface. An article by APA press releases (2002) mentioned that punishment makes children afraid to disobey when parents are present but when parents are not there to administer punishment those same children will misbehave. Sometimes when older children are punished too often, they eventually come to a conclusion that all they have to do it endure the spanking and they can misbehave as much as they like (Schmidt, 1996).

Punishment does not work.Aggressive behaviour can also be seen from children who were administered various forms of punishment techniques. In a study by Pendergrass (1972, cited in Maag, 1999:381), a boy with mental retardation began throwing objects at the experimenter after being placed in time-out. In a study by Eron, Walder Toigo, and Lefkowtz (1963, cited in Lieberman, 1993), parents of 451 schoolchildren were interviewed to find out what kinds of punishment they used in different situations. Researchers found that the harsher the punishment chosen by the parents the more likely the children were to be aggressive in school. Punishment seemed to have increased the frequency of this behaviour rather then reduce it.

Various other researchers have also noted that sometimes individuals become physically aggressive towards the people who dispense punishment or even towards other individuals in the environment (Sarafino, 2001). According to Kazdin (2001), aggression associates with punishment can sometimes be self inflicted. Research has shown that applications of overcorrection have been associated with increases in self injurious behaviour in some (Kazdin, 2001).Imitative aggression can also occur when punishment is used on children.

It has been established in laboratory experiments over the past thirty years that children will not only imitate the aggressive behaviours of models but also imitate punishment procedures that they have experienced (Maag, 1999:381). In an early study on imitation by Bandura, Ross, and Ross (1963, cited in Lieberman, 1993), nursery school children were exposed to an adult model who punched and kicked a large inflated doll. When the children were left alone with the doll, they prove significantly more likely to attack the doll than children in control groups who had not seen the model do so. This shows that children are highly imitative therefore children who are severely punished by their parents have been found to be far more likely to be physically aggressive towards their peers and have a much greater chance of becoming juvenile delinquents (Lieberman, 1993). Using punishment can in fact bring about other behavioural problems much more severe then the behaviour to be suppressed.

Punishment does not work if it brings about other problems.Even though punishment may eliminate the target behaviour, it may have other consequences that are worse than the original behaviour or at least problematic in their own right (Kazdin, 2001). Therefore, can we now say that punishment works if other problems surface? Punishment in this sense does not work and can in fact bring about undesirable consequences.ConclusionWhether of not punishment works to modify behaviour is something that remains controversial and is one that has always been hotly debated. Particularly with the use of physical punishment psychologists and other professionals are divided on the questions of whether the benefits of it might outweigh the potential hazards; some have concluded that corporal punishment is both effective and desirable while others have concluded that it is ineffective at best and harmful at worse (Gershoff, 2002). Evidence has shown that certain mild forms of punishment can suppress behaviour effectively especially in treating children with self-injurious and self stimulating behaviours.

However, the use of punishment can also lead to side effects like fear and avoidance of the punisher and the situation, aggression and modeled aggression.As punishment can have its undesirable consequences, other strategies could be applied to control or decrease undesirable behaviour before administering punishment. Strategies such as differential reinforcement, habit reversal, self-monitoring and self-instructions can be used.