The Effects of Differential Attention on the Cooperative Behaviour of Preschool Children
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Research has shown that at least half of children who display problem behaviour in preschool maintain these behaviour patterns when they reach school age. Without targeted intervention these behaviours may lead to an antisocial developmental pathway and problem behaviours which become increasingly entrenched and unlikely to respond to treatment. The present study had two aims, the first was to evaluate the use of differential attention as a behaviour management strategy in a preschool setting and to assess its effectiveness in encouraging prosocial behaviour in children who require extra assistance with their social development. The second was to assess the extent to which groups of Early Education teachers were able to implement differential attention during structured mat times and eating periods. This was achieved by observing both child appropriate and inappropriate behaviour and teacher attention to child appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. The study found that when teachers increased their rate of attention to appropriate behaviour to a level greater that their rate of attention to inappropriate behaviour, the child’s behaviour changed with appropriate behaviour increasing and inappropriate behaviour decreasing. Child behaviour only changed when teachers behaviour changed and was only maintained in the cases where teachers’ behaviour was maintained. One of the most significant observations in the study was the variability in implementation of the differential attention procedure across teachers and centres, leading to a number of recommendations for future research in preschool settings.