Why Children Behave the Way They Do: Article 2B By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.

Article 2B: The Five Modeling Effects By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.

Bandura further discovered that there are five types of effects that models can have on children, which showed that what can be learned from models not only includes new patterns of behavior, but also standards against which children can judge themselves and their abilities, their competencies in problem solving and conceptualization, and internal rules for creating behaviors. The five effects of models are:

1. Models Teach New Behavior

This is the modeling effect where children learn entirely new patterns of behaviors that were not previously part of their repertoire, such as learning how to dress themselves or how to ask questions in a polite manner, how to say unusual words like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” or how to hit a baseball.

2. Models Strengthen or Weaken the Use of Prohibited Behaviors

Here the actions of models serve to weaken or strengthen those behaviors that they already possess and which they have learned are prohibited, such as when a model’s use of swearing does not result in any adverse effects to the model and thereby weakens a child’s inhibition to swear. Another instance would be when a model is punished for some action, like speaking when they were supposed to be quiet, which increases the child’s own reluctance to engage in the same or similar actions. Another example would be a child observing an older sibling taking some money from the purse of their mother and thereby being less inhibited in doing so himself.

3. Models Encourage the Use of Already Learned Behaviors

Here the actions of the model serve as social prompts for previously learned behaviors that have not been inhibited but haven’t been used because of insufficient inducements. This prompting effect of models can facilitate children behaving altruistically, volunteering their services, delaying or seeking gratification, showing affection, selecting certain foods and apparel, conversing on particular topics, being inquisitive or passive, thinking creatively or conventionally, or engaging in other acceptable forms of action.

4. Models Change How Objects and Situations Are Used and Appreciated

In this type of influence, the behavior of models serves to direct the child’s attention to particular objects or settings that the model favors. Examples here would include where the aggressive model in the previously mentioned study drew the children’s attention to using a mallet to strike dolls, or when children observe parents eating in bed and get the idea that a bedroom can serve as a kitchen or dining room, and begin eating in their own beds.

5. Models Arouse Similar Feelings

This type of modeling effect takes place where the modeling of some action involves a display of or expression of emotion and the child reacts in similar emotional ways. An example would be seeing a parent cry when being spoken to harshly by someone else like another parent, and the child herself feeling sad and humiliated. Another example would be a child observing another model elated over receiving a gift, and feeling uplifted also.

In terms of what determines whether or not a child follows the examples of models, Bandura found that one of the most important determinants was what happens to the model for engaging in the behaviors. If the consequences to the model are positive, the model is more likely to be followed. If the consequences to the model are negative, then the model is less likely to be emulated. Similarly, if the consequences to the child for engaging in the behavior learned from models are positive or negative, these personal consequences also influence whether models are actually followed.

Another major determinant of whether the behavior of models will be copied or reproduced is the importance and status of the model in the eyes of the child. The more important the model is to the child, the more likely the child is to copy and be influenced by the model. This, of course, helps to explain why parents are such powerful models.

Thus, for better or worse, children learn a great deal from simply observing the actions of the significant models in their lives. What they observe sets the stage for much of what they actually do and say.

This type of learning can produce some of the greatest joys of parenthood when parents recognize their finer qualities being modeled and repeated by their children. It can also create some of the biggest challenges and problems of parenthood, as children repeat their parents less desirable qualities and habits.

Doing everything possible to model the qualities and behaviors that you want your children to develop and learn is the most profound implication of this type of learning. If you want your children to behave in a certain manner, behave that way yourself. Or, in other words, a good way to shape desirable child behavior is to be sure your behavior is in good shape.

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