Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 443–453 | Cite as

Discrimination learning of delinquent boys as a function of reinforcement contingency and delinquent subtype

  • James A. MosesJr.
  • Richard G. Ratliff
  • Anne R. Ratliff


Previous research has demonstrated the effectiveness of contingency management as a means of behavioral resocialization with delinquent boys on an individual basis. The present study was designed to examine and clarify systematically the reinforcement parameters that underlie the male delinquent's response to verbal and token reward and/or punishment. The principal findings of the study were: (1) Neurotic subjects performed at the highest level for punishment, at the lowest level for reward, and at an intermediate level for a combination of reward and punishment, regardless of verbal or token contingency modality. (2) Psychopathic subjects performed best for the joint verbal reward and punishment contingency, but they did not learn over trials for the joint token reward and punishment contingency. Their performance was undifferentiated at asymptote under the separate verbal and token reward or punishment contingencies. (3) Neurotic subjects performed at a significantly higher level than did psychopathic subjects for verbal and token punishment, while psychopathic subjects performed at a significantly higher level than neutric subjects for verbal and token reward.


Intermediate Level Individual Basis Discrimination Learning Contingency Management Token Contingency 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Reference note

  1. 1.
    Ratliff, R. G., Shoulders, D. I., & Ratliff, A. R.Delay of reinforcement and two-choice discrimination learning in delinquent and nondeliquent boys. Unpublished manuscript, 1976.Google Scholar


  1. 2.
    Emmerich, W. Young children's discriminations of parent and child roles.Child Development, 1959,30, 404–420.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Emmerich, W. Variations in the parent role as a function of the parent's sex and the child's sex and age.Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 1962,8, 1–11.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Glueck, S., & Glueck, E.Unraveling juvenile delinquency. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1950.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Guiterrez, M. T., & Eisenman, R. Verbal conditioning of neurotic and psychopathic delinquents using verbal and nonverbal reinforcers.Psychological Reports, 1971,29, 7–10.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Johns, J. H., & Quay, H. C. The effect of social reward on verbal conditioning in psychopathic and neurotic military offenders.Journal of Consulting Psychology, 1962,26, 217–220.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Kagan, J., & Lemkin, J. The child's differential perception of parental attributes.Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1960,61, 440–447.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Moses, J. A., Jr. Two-choice discrimination learning of delinquent boys as a joint function of reinforcement contingency and delinquent subtype (Doctoral dissertation, University of Colorado, 1974).Dissertation Abstracts International, 1974,35, 1922B.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Post, B. N.Responsivity of two types of delinquents to social reinforcement. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1968.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Quay, H. C. Classification. In H. C. Quay & J. S. Werry (Eds.),Psychopathologic disorders of childhood (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley, 1979.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Quay, H. C., & Hunt, W. A. Psychopathy, neuroticism, and verbal conditioning.Journal of Consulting Psychology, 1965,29, 283.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Quay, H. C., & Parsons, L. C.The differential behavioral classification of the juvenile offender (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: U. S. Bureau of Prisons, 1971.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Ratliff, R. G., Morganstern, K. F., & Ratliff, A. R. Patterns of learning in verbal discrimination as an interaction of social reinforcement and sex combinations.Journal of Genetic Psychology, 1976,129, 195–205.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Sarbin, T. R., Allen, V. L., & Rutherford, E. E. Social reinforcement, socialization and chronic delinquency.British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 1965,4, 179–184.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Schlichter, K. J., & Ratliff, R. G. Discrimination learning in juvenile delinquents.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1971,77, 46–48.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    Schwitzgebel, R.Streetcorner research: an experimental approach to the juvenile delinquent. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1964.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    Schwitzgebel, R., & Kolb, D. A. Inducing behavior change in adolescent delinquents.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 1964,1, 297–304.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    Stewart, D. J. Effects of social reinforcement on dependency and aggressive responses of psychopathic, neurotic, and subcultural delinquents.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1972,79, 76–83.Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    Yates, A. J. Delinquency, psychopathy, and criminality. In A. J. Yates,Behavior therapy. New York: Wiley, 1970. Pp. 207–223.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • James A. MosesJr.
    • 1
  • Richard G. Ratliff
    • 2
  • Anne R. Ratliff
    • 3
  1. 1.Palo Alto Veterans Administration Medical CenterUSA
  2. 2.University of ColoradoUSA
  3. 3.Boulder

Personalised recommendations