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Punishment Route

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

As we all know, consequences follow after a person's behavior or response occurs. Did you know punishment is one kind of consequence used to change a person's behavior or response?

Punishment is a consequence provided in order to decrease the likelihood of the behavior or response happening in the future. In ABA therapy sessions, providers don't use punishment as much because it can harm clients in psychological ways, such as clients showing more emotional reactions in the environment as a result. In addition, punishment doesn't teach a client what they should behave or respond to in the environment. There are specific and rare occasions punishment can be used, such as all reinforcement contingencies have not worked for changing behaviors or responses. With that being said, always use reinforcement contingencies first before heading in the route of punishment contingencies.

Now, let's dive into the types of punishment contingencies: positive and negative. Positive punishment is adding something into the environment that's not pleasant after a behavior or response occurs. For example, Jimmy drove more than 30 miles over speed limit on a 60 mph highway. A police officer pulls Jimmy over and gives him a ticket for speeding. Jimmy's behavior caused him to get a ticket. Have you ever been in a situation like that? That's the positive punishment contingency. On the other hand, negative punishment is taking away something pleasant after a behavior or response occurs. An example of this would be Jenny coming home late from being out with her friends, so her parents take away her car keys and not let her drive for the day because she didn't follow her parents curfew rule. That's the negative punishment contingency. These punishment contingencies change behaviors or responses by decreasing their likelihood of occurring in the future.

As mentioned earlier, reinforcement contingencies should be implemented before even using any punishment contingencies. It's more important to focus on teaching behaviors or responses that are functional to individual needs and will help increase an individual's quality of life. Do you agree?

Any questions about punishment contingencies? Share them in the comments section!


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