Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development

2011 Edition
| Editors: Sam Goldstein, Jack A. Naglieri

Coercion Theory

  • Elaine A. Thomas
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-79061-9_589



Coercion Theory [1, 2, 3], developed by Gerald Patterson and colleagues at the Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC), describes how aggressive and antisocial behaviors develop in children. Derived from extensive behavioral research on the moment-to-moment interactions in families, it specifies how ineffectual parental responses to problem behavior result in escalating aversive and aggressive behaviors in children in the short-term. It also describes how frequent repetitions of such coercive cycles result in a progressive worsening of aggressive behaviors in both variety and intensity coincident with lack of parental control over the aggression.


The parent–child interactions that, over time, will result in increased likelihood of aggressive behaviors in the child while resulting in loss of parental control over aggressive behaviors, and the learning principles that explain this, are outlined by the coercion model [3]. This process starts...

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  1. 1.
    Patterson, G. R. (1982). Coercive family processes. Eugene, OR: Castalia.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Patterson, G. R., Reid, J. B., & Dishion, T. (1992). Antisocial boys. Eugene, OR: Castalia.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Reid, J. B., Patterson, G. R., & Snyder, J. (2002). Antisocial behavior in children and adolescents: a developmental analysis and model for intervention. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Snyder, J. J. (1995). Coercion: a two-level theory of antisocial behavior. In W. O’Donohue & L. Krasner (Eds.), Theories of behavior therapy (pp. 313–348). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elaine A. Thomas
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Clinical PsychologyArgosy UniversityAtlantaUSA