The Behavior Analyst

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 49–60 | Cite as

Reflections on Some Early Events Related to Behavior Analysis of Child Development

  • Sidney W. Bijou


A series of events related to the early application of behavioral principles to child behavior and development is described. The events began in the 1930s at Columbia University with a solicited letter from John B. Watson suggesting a master’s degree thesis problem, and continued through the 1950s and 1960s at the University of Washington. Specifically, these happenings resulted in (a) research demonstrating that Skinner’s laboratory method for studying nonhuman organisms could be profitably applied to the laboratory study of young normal children; (b) a demonstration that by successive approximations, a normal child can be operantly conditioned to respond to an arbitrary situation; (c) research showing that the effects of simple schedules of reinforcement obtained with nonhuman organisms could be duplicated in young normal and retarded children; (d) the demonstration that Skinner’s operant laboratory method could be adapted to study young children in field situations; (e) research showing that operant principles can be successfully applied to the treatment of a young autistic boy with a serious visual handicap; (f) laboratory studies showing that mothers can be trained to treat their own young children who have behavior problems; (g) an in-home study demonstrating that a mother can treat her own child who has behavior problems; (h) a demonstration that operant principles can be applied effectively to teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic to children with retardation; and (i) publication of a book, Child Development: A Systematic and Empirical Theory, in collaboration with Donald M. Baer, by Prentice Hall in their Century Psychological Series.

Key words

child behavior child development applied behavior analysis research methodology 


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sidney W. Bijou
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology/296University of NevadaRenoUSA

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