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C 2003) Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, June 2003 (°

Punishment Insensitivity and Parenting: Temperament and Learning as Interacting Risks for Antisocial Behavior Mark R. Dadds1 and Karen Salmon1

We review ideas about individual differences in sensitivity or responsiveness to common disciplinary behaviors parents use to correct aggressive and antisocial behavior in children. At extremes, children may be seen as “punishment-insensitive,” an heuristic with some value relevant to models of the development of antisocial and aggressive behavior disorders. Literature from diverse fields, such as psychopathy, child temperament, socialization and the development of moral conscience, conditioning theory, and personality theory, have all utilized the idea that humans differ in their sensitivity to aversive stimuli and the cues that signal their occurrence, as well as their ability to inhibit reward-driven behavior, in the presence of punishment cues. Contemporary thinking places these dispositions squarely as basic biological aspects of temperament that moderate the effects of the environment (e.g., parenting) on outcomes (e.g., mental health). We review a largely forgotten literature that shows clearly that sensitivity to punishment is also reliably influenced by the environment itself. An attempt is then made to model the interactional processes by which parenting and punishment sensitivities in children magnify or diminish each other’s progress toward healthy or antisocial development. Implications for parenting of children with low responsiveness to punishment strategies are discussed. KEY WORDS: antisocial behavior; punishment; psychopathy; learning processes; temperament.

The delineation of social learning processes has dominated the landscape of research into the development of antisocial behavior throughout the twentieth century. As a result, much is now known about the environments that pose risk for the learning of problematic aggression and antisocial behavior through childhood and adolescence. In particular, the specification of developmental models and interventions that emphasize problematic family and parenting environments are some of the most clearly articulated pathways yet advanced in the understanding of psychopathology (e.g., Loeber & Farrington, 2000; Patterson, 1982). These models represent good science in that they specify clearly testable mechanisms that can switch in and out at various points in life,

1 University

and lead directly to interventions that have attracted considerable empirical support. More recently, attention has also turned to factors intrinsic to the behavior and temperament of the individual that also represent risk for aggression and antisocial behavior. In the behavioral sphere, the early onset, severity, and diversity of specific symptoms such as impulsivity and proactive aggression are predictors of chronic and severe forms of antisociality (Loeber & Farrington, 2000). More controversial is the idea that temperamental factors underlie and drive behavioral manifestations, and thus represent important risk factors in themselves. For example, this idea of temperament is fundamental to contemporary notions of “psychopathy,” especially Hare’s influential two-factor model. Psychopathic behavior is held to comprise outwardly observable antisocial behavior, but also a callous-insensitive temperament. The latter is hypothesized to be a set of stable traits that remain consistent even while behavioral manifestations vary across settings and time.

of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

2 Address all correspondence to Mark R. Dadds, School of Psychol-

ogy, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia; e-mail: [email protected]

69 C 2003 Plenum Publishing Corporation 1096-4037/03/0600-0069/0 °

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70 With regard to the development of antisocial behavior, one important notion is that chronically antisocial people are relatively indifferent to normal socialization practices. That is, their behavior is less responsive to normal parental, school, and societal discipline strategies. As we will see, a number of models of antisocial behavior include this as a risk factor. Specifically, a behavioral style marked by low fear, high-reward seeking, low punishment sensitivity, low effortful or inhibitory control, and high impulsivity, places one at risk for antisocial behavior and failing to develop an internalized sense of positive moral and interpersonal values (e.g., Kochanska, 1994). These have commonly been invoked in understanding more severe forms of antisociality (or psychopathy) in adults (e.g., Hare, 1998), and are increasingly being studied in younger cohorts at risk for antisocial behavior. It is the aim of this paper to more closely examine ideas about one putative aspect or outcome of temperament that is implicated in the development of chronic antisocial behavior: Punishment Insensitivity (PI). First, we will briefly review literature that has looked at various constructs relating to or impacting one’s responsiveness to punishment. What is conspicuously lacking in this literature, however, is the idea that PI can be learned. Or more realistically, how interpersonal learning processes interact with temperamental features to produce a person who appears insensitive to punishment. As will be seen, there is an extensive but largely forgotten literature from the mid-twentieth century that examined conditions under which organisms show diminished responsiveness to punishment. Interestingly, these conditions sound remarkably like the empirical descriptions of the family environments of children who develop severe antisocial behavior. The aim of this paper, then, is to discuss temperamental and learning pathways to PI. First, the construct of PI will be reviewed followed by a review of literature on PI in the development of antisocial behavior. The main thrust of the paper will be to reexamine literature on learning conditions that have been shown to influence PI and compare these to the typical environments associated with the development of antisocial behavior. Finally, an attempt will be made to look at ways in which temperament and social learning might exacerbate and diminish the influence of each other in antisocial pathways. The aim is not to present a “nature” versus “nurture” comparison of PI but to look at how they may interact to maximize and minimize risk.

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Dadds and Salmon First, some comments on the working definition of punishment are needed (see Larzelere, 2000, for a review). In popular terms, punishment refers to the presentation of an aversive or the removal of a positive as a consequence of the child engaging in a behavior deemed unsuitable. In strict operant parlance, punishment refers to the presentation or removal of a stimulus that reliably reduces the occurrence of the behavior upon which it is contingent. While this definition has advantages in terms of precision, it is of limited use for this discussion. The idea that punishment is ineffective, or that a child is insensitive to punishment, simply does not make sense according to the operant definition, because the punisher is defined in terms of its effects. Clearly, the idea of punishment insensitivity is akin to the lay sense of the term in which punishment refers to an aversive presented contingent upon another behavior. One further problem with this definition is that in the parenting area, it is important to be able to talk about noncontingent punishment, the regrettable situation in which a child is punished for reasons other than the occurrence of a specific behavior. Historians have pointed to a long history of European child-rearing practices where children were punished to prevent future misbehavior and strengthen their moral character (e.g., Cleverley & Phillips, 1986). In well-documented cases of child abuse, extreme punishment has occurred because of disturbed judgments about the character of the child, or to satisfy pathological needs of the caregiver. In this sense of the word, punishment is not contingent at all but refers to the presentation of any aversive. Thus, at the broadest level, we will use punishment to refer to any presentation of an aversive (which includes removal of positive) to a child that aims to, or is likely to, influence the behavior or character of that child.

LEARNING MODELS OF PUNISHMENT AND ANTISOCIAL BEHAVIOR One of the most influential and comprehensive analyses of punishment and the development of antisocial behavior came from Patterson (1982).3 Based on a thorough understanding of operant theory and an innovative range of naturalistic–observational studies 3 Patterson

has published prolifically since his classic 1982 book. However, we were unable to find subsequent analyses of punishment processes that substantially altered or built upon his 1982 writings.

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Punishment Insensitivity and Parenting of family interactions, his “coercion theory” posits that antisocial behavior is initially learned within the family and generalizes to others outside the family, including peers and teachers. Through repeated shaping of behavior, the child progresses from aggression and noncompliance common to toddlers to a more extreme range of antisocial behavior that generalizes to many parts of the person’s life. The model centers on an application of contemporaneous social learning theory to antisocial behavior. Thus, it emphasizes two main processes: (1) direct imitative learning of antisocial behavior: data have shown that when children are exposed to aggressive role models, their aggression will increase, and that physical punishment by parents often serves as a model for future aggression on the part of the child (Eron, 1987; Eron, Walder, & Lefkowitz, 1971), and (2) reinforcement traps whereby antisocial–aggressive behavior is rewarded, prosocial behavior is extinguished or punished, and the failure of punishment to suppress problem behavior. It is this second set of processes, specifically those involving punishment, that concern us here. Specifically, Patterson argued the following: punishment is generally effective in reducing the aggressive, noncompliant behavior of children; however, he observed that parents of conduct problem children make a number of parenting errors that overcome this effectiveness. First, they rarely deliver a salient punishing stimuli contingent upon the aggressive/noncompliant behavior they wish to eliminate. Similarly, instructions to the child are rarely backed up with effective but nonviolent aversives like time-out or loss of privileges. Patterson characterized parents of conduct problem as “nattering,” that is, frequently delivering mild-level threats and scolds that are not supported with more serious outcomes for the child. Further, the delivery of many punishers is noncontingent in that they either do not precisely follow the first instance of a misbehavior, or worse, are equally likely to be directed at prosocial behavior. Patterson (1982) also acknowledged the evidence that temperament, by affecting levels of impulsivity and sensitivity to punishment, will interact with parenting style to affect risk for antisocial behavior. However, he correctly pointed out the lack of good research in this area, and explicitly threw his weight behind parenting as the main driving force in shaping aggression and antisocial behavior in the child. . . . “the problem child’s hypo-responsiveness can be altered by improvements in the parent’s child management skills” (1982, p. 136).

71 Studies that have looked at the type of parental discipline in families with aggressive and conductdisordered children have supported Patterson’s characterization of these parenting styles. That is, aggressive antisocial behavior is more likely to be rewarded than prosocial behavior, and daily interactions are marked by the occurrence of frequent delivery of aversives, with parents punishing not only higher numbers of deviant behaviors but also more prosocial and positive behaviors, than matched parents without aggressive children (Dumas & Wahler, 1985; Patterson, 1976). Thus, Patterson’s model put social learning in the family at the forefront of processes in the early development of antisocial behavior. His analyses of reward and punishment contingencies provided a theoretical framework for the developments in parenting interventions that have dominated the clinical landscape since. Clearly, punishment has been a critical factor in understanding those processes. We argue that this understanding will be greatly enhanced by supplementing Patterson’s analysis with a more fine-grained analysis of punishment with respect to a broader range of variables than operant theory, namely, the temperament of the child, the nature of the relationship with the parent delivering the punishment, and the type of behavior being punished. This is not a new direction. Recently a number of authors have made calls for more attention to child variables (e.g., Green & Doyle, 1999), and recent studies have emphasized the interplay of endogenous child variables and environmental challenges in the determination of antisocial behavior (e.g., Caspi et al., 2002). Within this context, we offer a specific analysis of several ways in which empirically supported child variables can interact with parenting problems to escalate risk into antisocial behavior. The next section looks more closely at the cluster of temperamental constructs related to punishment insensitivity in children.

THE CONSTRUCT OF PUNISHMENT INSENSITIVITY Broadly, the idea of PI is common to a number of theories of psychopathy and human behavior in general. Its role in understanding psychopathy and antisocial behavior can be traced back to Lykken’s seminal work showing that psychopaths tend to be insensitive to cues of imminent punishment (Lykken, 1957). Specifically, psychopaths were held to have low levels of innate fear and showed specific deficits in

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72 passive avoidance learning. That is, they showed a relative failure to learn to change their behavior in order to avoid punishment. These learning deficits would make such people difficult to socialize through parenting or societal strategies that rely on the person’s motivation to avoid punishment. Decades of research with adults high in psychopathic traits, usually offender populations, has supported the hypothesis that psychopaths have deficits in avoidance learning (see Hare, 1998), smaller anticipatory psychophysiological responses to stressful stimuli such as shock, and deficits in related anxiety-learning mechanisms of potentiated startle reflexes (Patrick, Bradley, & Lang, 1993). Applied more broadly than psychopathy, Eron’s review of the literature on classical conditioning as a factor in the development of aggressive and delinquent behavior concluded that repeat offenders have a deficit in classical conditioning to punishment stimuli, specifically of the underlying fear response (Eron, 1997). This failure to be aroused and learn to avoid stressful or punished stimuli is held to predispose them to deficient development of a conscience and poorly socialized behavior. Research examining the relationship of PI to antisocial behavior has predominantly refined the latter construct to only include antisocial males who show psychopathic traits on the basis of Hare’s twofactor model (PCL; Hare, 1985, and its revision, the PCL-R; Hare, Hart, & Harpur, 1991; cf, Eron, 1997). This model identifies two partially independent psychological dimensions. One dimension (Factor 1) is composed of the interpersonal characteristics (such as superficial charm, callous use of others, absence of empathy) and emotional style (such as absence of guilt, shallow emotions, lack of anxiety). The characteristics detected by this factor closely follow traditional descriptions of the psychopathic personality as maintained by Cleckley (1976). The second dimension (Factor 2) includes characteristics of the unstable and antisocial lifestyle (such as poor employment history, multiple marriages, prior convictions, and a history of aggression and violence). A large body of research has examined PI in antisocial adults who show psychopathic traits and a number of increasingly precise formulations of the underlying processes hypothesized to support PI are appearing in the literature. Early models of psychopathy emphasized deficits in affect reactivity and sensitivity (see Hare, 1998). More recent models have emphasized specific relationships between affect and cognitive processing. Essentially, models emphasize various combinations of at least four subprocesses

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Dadds and Salmon necessary for the effectiveness of conditioned learning to contribute to the development of a prosocial adult: a basic level of emotional sensitivity and reactivity so that certain stimuli can have aversive properties, ability to allocate attention to these aversive punishment cues (including other people’s negative emotions), some propensity for associations such that stimuli signaling the likelihood of punishment can take on conditioned properties, and thus, inhibit displays of certain behaviors, and finally, some degree of self-control over attentional processes and behavior. Gray (1981, 1982) has had a significant impact on thinking about the role of reward and punishment in psychopathy. Gray holds that two general motivational systems underlie behavior and affect: a behavioral inhibition system (BIS) and a behavioral activation system (BAS). The BIS is sensitive to signals of punishment, nonreward, and novelty, and when activated, serves to increase nonspecific arousal, interrupt ongoing goal-directed behavior, and direct attention to relevant environmental stimuli. It thus inhibits behavior that may lead to negative or painful outcomes and causes inhibition of movement toward goals. Gray also held that BIS functioning is responsible for the experience of negative feelings such as fear, anxiety, frustration, and sadness in response to these cues (Gray, 1978, 1981, 1987, 1990). Greater BIS sensitivity should be reflected in greater proneness to anxiety when exposed to the proper situational cues. The BAS is said to be sensitive to signals of reward, nonpunishment, and escape from punishment. Activity in this system causes the person to begin (or to increase) movement toward goals. Gray also held that BAS is responsible for the experience of positive feelings such as hope, elation, and happiness (Gray, 1977, 1981, 1990). Greater BAS sensitivity should be reflected in greater proneness to engage in goaldirected efforts and to experience positive feelings when exposed to cues of impending reward. BIS and BAS can be studied as independent systems, exemplified by research looking at low responsiveness to aversive stimuli in antisocial offenders. However, it is the balance between the BIS and BAS systems that is hypothesized to determine responses to stimuli. Clearly, low responsiveness to punishment could result from a weak BIS, or a relatively strong BAS. Or in terms of Gray’s specific constructs, low BIS will be associated with failure to attend to threat/punishment cues and failure to interrupt goal- or reward-directed behavior despite the presence of punishment contingencies. Thus, individuals with low BIS may fail to learn to inhibit behavior

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Punishment Insensitivity and Parenting in the presence of punishment cues, making them difficult to socialize through punishment mechanisms. Balance effects between BIS and BAS can be observed in the variations found in nonclinical/nonforensic samples. For example, Avila (2001) used a point-scoring reaction time procedure to differentiate two disinhibitory mechanisms associated with BAS and BIS in college students. Results found the BAS-mediated mechanism to be related to a lack of inhibition in reward-directed behavior after introducing an occasional aversive contingency and to deficits in learning from aversive cures when responding for reward. The BIS-mediated mechanism related to a higher ability to extinguish aversive associations, a lower aversive generalization gradient, and a lower interference with appetitive behavior in the presence of aversive stimuli. The likelihood that punishment cues can interrupt reward-directed behavior has received careful attention from Newman and colleagues (see Newman, 1998). They argue that the primary deficit in psychopathy is a failure to attend to (or accommodate the meaning of) contextual cues while engaged in goal-directed behavior. Thus, the failure of punishment cues to suppress reward-directed behavior, is according to Newman, a subset of a more general cognitive deficit in psychopaths that is, however, situation specific to reward- or goal-driven behavior. Newman, Patterson, Howland, and Nichols (1990) examined the manner in which availability of reward contributes to poor passive avoidance learning in 59 incarcerated males deemed psychopaths or controls on the basis of Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist. Results suggested that when participant’s processing of punishment feedback required interruption of a dominant response set for reward, psychopaths paused less and displayed poorer passive avoidance learning than did controls. However, availability of reward per se did not disrupt avoidance learning in psychopaths. Further, psychopaths were no more activated by reward than nonpsychopaths and there was no evidence that they paused less following punishment than controls under mixed incentive conditions. It was suggested that as reward does not appear to interfere with passive avoidance learning in psychopaths by producing a state of excessive activation, it may be that the role of reward is to establish a dominant response set which in psychopaths are less amenable to interruption. Psychopaths may have an attentional deficit that interferes with their ability to switch attention once it has been allocated to a motivationally significant goal.

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73 Of potential relevance to Newman’s proposal that psychopaths have difficulty altering or suspending their behavior and reallocating attention when engaged in goal-directed behavior (that is, psychopaths have difficulty altering their dominant response set for reward; Newman, 1998) are findings within the developmental literature relating to the self-regulatory dimension of temperament, effortful or inhibitory control. Rothbart and colleagues propose that effortful control is related to the maturation of attention at the end of the 1st year of life and the subsequent rapid development of the attentional networks (Rothbart & Bates, 1998). In other words, effortful control is associated with the capacity to sustain and shift attention flexibly (Derryberry & Rothbart, 1997), and is manifested behaviorally in, for example, the ability to suppress a dominant response and perform a subdominant response (Rothbart, Ahadi, & Evans, 2000; Rothbart & Bates, 1998). As we discuss later, effortful control is also strongly implicated in the development of prosocial outcomes in early childhood, including guilt, empathy, and conscience (Kochanska, 1997; Kochanska, Murray, Jacques, & Koenig, 1996; Rothbart, Ahadi, & Hershey, 1994). Children who can use attention to regulate behavior may be better able to inhibit prepotent responses (e.g., hitting out) to consider the effect of their actions on others (Kochanska, 1997; Rothbart et al., 1994, 2000). Given the coherence of effortful control as a construct and its stability across early childhood (Rothbart & Bates, 1998), it is tempting to consider that Newman’s adult psychopaths, as children, would have been found to be low in effortful control and fearfulness, such that once engaged in reward-driven behavior they would have considerable difficulty reallocating attention and inhibiting that behavior. As discussed earlier, much of the literature relevant to PI in adults has focused on subgroups with high psychopathic traits. While controversial, some promise has been shown by research extending the concept of psychopathy to children. It is not the place to review this literature here, so several highlights of this work relevant to the current topic will be summarized. Interested readers can see Lynam (1996, 1998) and Frick and Ellis (1999) for more detailed reviews. There is evidence that the two-factor model of psychopathy can be applied to adolescents (Frick, O’Brien, Wootton, & McBurnett, 1994) and children (Dadds, Fraser, & Frost, submitted) using the Psychopathy Screening Device (PSD; Frick & Hare, in press). Compared to their adult counterparts, little work has

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74 been conducted looking at the relationship of psychopathic traits and responsiveness to punishment in adolescents (and almost none with children). However, the small amount done has thrown up results consistent with adult offender samples. That is, adolescent males from clinical and/or juvenile justice samples who show high psychopathic traits are less anxious (Barry et al., 2000; Frick, Lilienfeld, Edens, Poythress, & McBurnett, 2000), show diminished pain sensitivity (Seguin, Pihl, Boulerice, Tremblay, & Harden, 1996), and show a response dominant style whereby increasing cues for punishment fail to suppress rewarddriven behavior (Barry et al., 2000; Blair, Colledge, & Mitchell, 2001; Fisher & Blair, 1998; Lynam, 1998; Newman, Kosson, & Patterson, 1992; O’Brien & Frick, 1996; O’Brien, Frick, & Lyman, 1994). Thus, emerging evidence indicates that specific aspects of PI, namely, low anxiety and sensitivity to aversives, and high reward dominance, are evident in clinical samples of adolescents. It should be noted, however, that studies of arousal and avoidance learning are almost existent with younger children. Of interest, is the emerging evidence that adolescents with high psychopathic traits have deficits in processing emotional stimuli. The socialization of children involves many more subtleties than overt physical punishment and much is learned from emotions (approval, pleasure, anger, sadness, fear) conveyed by parents and other caregivers in response to different child behaviors. These emotions can function as unconditioned stimuli that elicit similar emotions in the children, or cues that signal to the child that what the parent will do next (reward, punish, withdraw). Thus, the child’s sensitivity to these cues may be an important part of responsiveness to punishment. Empirical work addressing this is rare. Using a modified version of the lexical decision task designed by Williamson, Harpur, and Hare (1991), Loney, Frick, Clements, Ellis, and Kerlin (2003) showed that adjudicated adolescents with high psychopathic traits showed diminished speed of responding to emotional words. Blair, Colledge, Murray, and Mitchell (2001) studied 51 boys aged 9–17 years made up a group of children with psychopathic tendencies and a comparison group (based on results of PSD). The boys were shown 18 faces (3 per emotional state of happiness, surprise, fear, sadness, disgust, and anger) which started as neutral and were morphed to one of six emotional states. They were instructed to call out the emotional state (as listed in front of them) as soon as they recognized it, with scores given according to the

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Dadds and Salmon number of stages that were required before successful expression recognition occurred. Adolescents with psychopathic tendencies made significantly more errors when processing fearful expressions than the comparison group—even when the fear faces were at full intensity they were more likely to mistake them for a different expression. The psychopathic tendencies group was also significantly less sensitive to sad expressions, requiring more response stages than the comparison group to identify the sad faces. The selective impairments of the sad and fearful expressions in the psychopathic tendency group is in line with the concept of impairment in the amygdala for psychopathic individuals, as neuroimaging studies have revealed that the amygdala is activated by sad and fearful expressions but not disgusted or angry expressions and happy expressions result in reduced amygdala activation (Blair, Morris, Frith, Perrett, & Dolan, 1999; Calder, Young, Rowland, & Perrett, 1996; Morris et al., 1996; Phillips et al., 1997). The developmental aspects of these deficits in emotional processing have received almost no attention. The affects appear to be robust from adolescence onwards; however, their presence in childhood is unknown. Although it is possible that such traits have early origins, there is also recent evidence to suggest that they may not emerge until puberty. McGivern, Andersen, Byrd, Mutter, and Reilly (2002) showed that adolescents processing of facial emotions in others showed substantial impairment with the onset of adolescence. Such is the advancement of this literature that researchers are at the stage of designing tasks to differentiate impaired function, emotional insensitivity versus attentional problems, and specify their neural substrates. For example, failure to show appropriate conditioned fear has been attributed to deficits in functioning of the amygdala (in the limbic system). Normal functioning of the amygdala is associated with potentiated startle reflexes, processing of reward or punishment values of stimuli, and the formation of conditioned fear learning (see Everitt, Cardinal, Hall, Parkinson, & Robbins, 2000), and conversely, lesions of the amygdala associated with failures in startle reflexes, disturbances of reward–punishment-driven behavior, and conditioned fear learning (e.g., Bechara, Tranel, Damasio, & Adolphs, 1995; LaBar, LeDoux, Spencer, & Phelps, 1995). In one of the first studies to attempt to differentiate specific neural function deficits in psychopathic adolescents, Blair et al. (2001) investigated orbitofrontal cortex functioning in children

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Punishment Insensitivity and Parenting with psychopathic tendencies via the gambling task (which shows impairment by people with amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex lesions but no impairment in people with dorsolateral prefrontal cortex lesions) and the Intradimensional/Extradimensional Discrimination (ID/ED) task (in which lesions of the orbital prefrontal cortex produce impairments in the reversal learning but not in the extradimensional shift learning of the task and lesions of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex are associated with impairments in extradimensional shift learning but not in reversal learning of the task). Thus, it was proposed that if children with psychopathic tendencies showed impairment on the gambling task but not on the ID/ED task, this would suggest an association between psychopathy and dysfunction of the amygdala. However, if they showed impairment on the gambling task and the reversal learning of the ID/ED task, this would suggest an association between psychopathy and dysfunction of the orbitofrontal cortex. Results found that the psychopathic tendencies group was less likely to avoid risky packs in the gambling task than the comparison group, but they did not show significantly more reversal errors on the ID/ED task. Thus, it appears that psychopathy, especially when seen in children, is not associated with generalized orbitofrontal–cortex dysfunction, rather, that amygdala dysfunction is the core impairment. It is important to note that the construct of punishment insensitivity (and reward dominance) is related to the broader construct of anxiety in ways that are conceptually important for understanding their role in antisocial behavior. A number of writers (e.g., Frick, Lilienfeld, Ellis, Loney, & Silverthorn, 1999; Lilienfeld, 1994; Rothbart & Bates, 1998; Watson & Clark, 1984) have pointed out that the term anxiety encompasses both the ideas of negative affectivity and fear. The former refers to heightened experience of, and inability, to regulate negative emotions such as worry and sadness. The latter refers to the experience of fearfulness in the context of specific events, usually novel or aversive in nature. Models of PI relate to this latter idea of fearlessness, that is, insensitivity to aversive stimuli and thus high-risk taking, not to the idea of high levels of dysregulated negative emotions. Conduct disorders in children can relate to either of these constructs. Thus, a child with conduct problems may be highly dysregulated to the point of showing comorbid externalizing and internalizing problems. On the other hand, a child with conduct problem may show low levels of dysregulated negative affect, but high levels of risky, fearless behavior. Recently, re-

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75 searchers such as Frick and Ellis (1999) have suggested that these represent separate pathways into antisocial behavior, and that punishment insensitivity is only relevant for the latter group. Thus, it is understandable that studies examining the interplay of anxiety and conduct problems (e.g., Ollendick, Seligman, & Butcher, 1999) keep throwing up contradictory results. Some find that anxiety mitigates the severity of conduct problems, others find that it exacerbates it. Breaking down the construct of anxiety into its fearfulness and negative affect components should help clarify this confusion (see Frick et al., 1999). For example, fearfulness may mitigate antisocial behavior by placing some constraints on risky behavior, whereas emotional dysregulation may increase risk for impulsive violence. The above research indicates clearly that risk for severe antisocial behavior, in particular, coexisting antisocial behavior and callous–unemotional traits, is associated with deficits in responsiveness to punishment. Most research has been with adults and consistent evidence is emerging for adolescents. The underlying mechanisms hypothesized to account for the deficit varies considerably in this literature. However, it is possible to identify some common mechanisms either associated with, or underlying the construct: reward dominance (high appetitive drive and sensitivity to reward), diminished capacity to shift attention to contextual cues when focused on reward, diminished salience and reactivity to aversive and emotional stimuli, a failure to learn associations between these aversive and emotional stimuli and cues for their occurrence, and a failure to learn to avoid or inhibit behaviors that lead to these stimuli. All of these characteristics, alone or in combination, could contribute toward a child who appears relatively unresponsive to punishment. How do these ideas relate to traditional and current models of temperament in children? Historically, Allport (1961) contributed one of the most comprehensive attempts to define and distinguish the terms of character, personality, and temperament. The term temperament came into the English language in the middle ages from the ancient idea of the “humours” (glandular secretions) that determine the characteristic temperament of an individual. After a lengthy review of the various connotations of the word, Allport concluded that temperament refers to “. . . the characteristic phenomena of an individual’s emotional nature, including his susceptibility to emotional stimulation, his customary strength and speed of response, the quality

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76 of his prevailing mood, and all peculiarities of fluctuation and intensity in mood, these phenomena being regarded as dependent upon constitutional make-up, and therefore hereditary in origin” (1961, p. 327). Recent conceptualizations of temperament have incorporated self-regulatory as well as reactive processes. For example, Rothbart and colleagues define temperament as “constitutionally (biologically) based individual differences in emotional, motor, and attentional reactivity and self-regulation” (Rothbart & Bates, 1998, p. 109). Reactive aspects of temperament can be measured in terms of the onset, duration, and intensity of expression of affective reactions (positive and negative), as well as variability in arousability and distress in response to stimulation, activity, and attention. Self-regulatory processes, such as executive control of how attention is allocated, are thought to modulate reactivity (Rothbart & Bates, 1998). Moreover, a large body of research has investigated the structure of temperament, deriving from both research on temperament in infants and older children and psychobiological approaches identifying broad dimensions of temperamental variability (Rothbart & Bates, 1998). Rothbart et al. (2000) reviewed several psychobiological models to identify common and general dimensions of temperament. These were Approach/Positive Affect (extraversion); Fear/Behavioral Inhibition; Irritability/Anger; reactive Orienting (directing attention to relevant locations); and Effortful Control (related to executive functioning and is active during tasks in which a dominant response must be inhibited to perform a subdominant response). Psychometric approaches using factor analyses of parent reports of a measure of child temperament (CBQ: Children’s Behavior Questionnaire) have consistently found three factors that replicate across samples and cultures, and over time (Rothbart et al., 2000): (1) Extraversion/Surgency (defined primarily by subscales of approach, high intensity pleasure or sensation seeking; activity level, with a negative contribution from shyness); (2) Negative Affectivity (defined by subscales of discomfort, fear, anger/frustration, sadness, with soothability loading negatively); (3) Effortful Control (defined by scales of inhibitory control, attentional focusing, low intensity pleasure and perceptual sensitivity; Rothbart & Bates, 1998). Fear and attentional control serve as control systems with significant implications for the expression of negative emotion and action.

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Dadds and Salmon These underlying dimensions of temperament have a number of potential associations, both direct and indirect, with development generally and psychopathology specifically (see Rothbart, Posner, & Hershey, 1995). In terms of antisocial behavior, high approach-reward drives, unfettered by fear or sensitivity to punishment, in a child with high impulsivity or low effortful control, is a critical mix of temperamental variables. Research has shown, for example, that aggressive problems are associated with strong approach and weak fear motivation, with deficits in effortful control (Derryberry & Rothbart, 1997; Rothbart et al., 2000). As can be seen from our discussion, PI might be conceptualized as deriving from several dimensions, either singly or in interaction with each other (e.g., extraversion, particularly high intensity, high pleasure/sensation seeking; anger/frustration; negative affectivity, for example, low fear, and low effortful control). Further, contained in models of temperament is the inherent assumption that they are basic biological processes or traits. We use the word inherent deliberately here, because few developmental theorists would deny the power of the environment to interact with temperamental to produce specific behaviors. However, most studies look at the interaction of environment and temperament in the determination of developmental outcomes. For example, Wootton, Frick, Shelton, and Silverthorn (1997) examined the role of ineffective parenting in the development of conduct problems. They found that ineffective parenting was associated with increased conduct problems only in children without CU traits. Children with CU traits exhibited high rates of conduct problems regardless of the type of parenting they received, consistent with the model positing that children with CU traits develop antisocial behavior through causal factors that are distinct from other children with conduct problems. The authors hypothesized that children with CU traits may have a unique motivational and affective style that makes them less responsive to socialization practices. The longitudinal studies by Kochanska and colleagues reviewed later also use this logic where temperament is seen to moderate environmental events and outcomes. In contrast, it is rare to see discussion or studies designed to examine how environment might shape temperament or behaviors typically viewed as reflecting temperament; that is, thinking of temperament as a dependent variable. It is clear that humans have innate differences in their sensitivity to aversive stimuli and punishment contingencies. The above literature

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Punishment Insensitivity and Parenting indicates that, at extremes, low levels of sensitivity may exacerbate risk for poor socialization. We would like to ask how environmental conditions influence a person’s potential for and manifestations of sensitivity to punishment, and how such trait variables and performances affect the learning conditions the person will be exposed to. Thus, the next section begins by considering, in a unidirectional way, learning conditions that have been shown to reliably affect sensitivity to punishment.

LEARNING PATHWAYS TO PI Most research conducted into effects of punishment has been conducted with nonhuman primates. Given its focus on extremes of punishment, much of it was unpleasant if not unethical. Although very few such studies have been conducted with humans, and the stimuli used in these studies are often extreme, the intrinsic face validity of the results and conclusions, as well as their similarity to descriptions of parent– child interactions in families of aggressive children (e.g., Patterson, 1982) and the effects of abuse on children (e.g., Cicchetti & Lynch, 1995), augurs for their appropriate use here. Perhaps the main limitation to the studies below is that the methodology in the animal literature involves unidirectional and fixed levels of punishment. In the complex dynamics of parent– child interaction, the ongoing reciprocation of behavior, emotion, and meaning makes such static notions of punishment seem rather primitive. However, it is always useful to make sense of the components of systems, in this case unidirectional effects of punishment, as an aid to understanding the system itself.

Generalized Environmental Influences Sensitivity to aversive stimulation and pain is dependent on rearing conditions. In a series of studies in the 1950s and 60s, it was clearly shown that animals (monkeys, dogs) raised in socially deprived environments show less marked behavioral and physiological reactions to pain stimuli, poor ability to localize pain stimuli on the body (Nissen, Chow, & Semmes, 1951), and take longer to learn avoidance of a range of painful stimuli including shock, pinprick, and heat (Melzack & Scott, 1957). Inherent in the psychopathy literature reviewed earlier is the idea that diminished sensitivity to aversive stimuli is associated with deficits in avoidance learning. That is, it is very difficult to form

77 conditioned reactions and conditioned cues to stimuli that do not produce a motivation to avoid in the first place. The results of the above animal studies directly support this proposition: they reveal that as deprivation reduces the organism’s capacity to perceive pain normally, it also produces deficits in avoidance learning.

Mixing Punishers and Rewards Much has been written about the association of inconsistent parenting and the development of conduct problems in children (e.g., Dadds, 1994; Dumas & Wahler, 1985; Patterson, 1982). Generally, the idea is that children fail to learn coherent prosocial behavior when their behavior produces unpredictable or uncontrollable effects. In terms of the current discussion of PI, inconsistent parenting may have other important effects. That is, aversive stimuli that would ordinarily suppress behavior can be used to elicit behavior when mixed with rewards. An early example comes from Holz and Azrin (1961). Having initially trained two pigeons to respond for food on a variable interval schedule, they punished each response with a moderately intense shock while continuing to present food on the variable interval schedule. Once the subjects had stabilized at a somewhat suppressed rate of responding under these conditions, periods of variable interval food plus consistent shock were alternated with periods during which neither food nor shock was delivered. Efficient discrimination learning was established: the two birds maintained a steady rate of responding in the presence of shock, but did not respond at all during periods free of shock. Church (1969) argued that if an animal has been reinforced for responding in a particular way in the presence of shock, subsequent presentation of shock, even if as a punishment for a particular response, will tend to reinstate or maintain a similar pattern of responding. Studies with squirrel monkeys have found that when fixed-interval, noncontingent shocks were presented during extinction of avoidance, eventually the monkeys increased their rate of responding as the time of shock approached and responded at only a low rate following each shock. Once this pattern of behavior had been established, the presentation of shock could be made contingent on responding on a fixed interval schedule and the monkeys continued to respond, thus ensuring the delivery of regular,

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78 extremely severe shocks (Kelleher, Riddle, & Cook, 1963; McKearney, 1969; Stretch, Orloff, & Dalrymple, 1968). The similarities of the above findings to descriptions of parent–child interactions in the families of conduct problems children is obvious. Under conditions where reward and punishment have been mixed, either concurrently or over time, the punishment stimuli will actually prompt the behavior they are meant to prevent. For example, consider a child who has a history of cruel behavior toward the family pets. At times this behavior may have been inadvertently rewarded by the family attention it received, even active approval in extreme cases. As the problem worsens, the parent begins to apply punishment contingencies to the cruel behavior. If the punishment is the provision of an aversive stimulus (e.g., smacking, lecturing), it will still contain some of the rewarding stimuli (attention). Under these conditions, the punishment will not be effective; rather, it will prompt and maintain the cruel behavior. The child will appear to be insensitive to punishment.

Punishment Is Applied to Appetitive, Elicited, or Pavlovian Behavior In traditional operant terms, punishment reduces the reoccurrence of behavior, and so, with alarming definitional circularity, the behavior that is reduced by punishment, is by definition, an “operant behavior.” What happens, however, when punishment is applied to behavior that is largely elicited, or nonoperant? Examples of the latter would include appetitive and aversive behaviors such as hungry eating, sexual arousal, fear, pain, and illness reactions. It is possible to find many descriptions of punishment applied to elicited behavior, and the results are clear; punishment may temporarily suppress this behavior; however, the punishment of such elicited behavior generally produces further stress reactions such as aggression, abnormal stress behavior, even self-harm. These stress reactions are also elicited (nonoperant) behaviors that are not amenable to punishment themselves but rather, increasingly, are prompted by the punishment stimuli (e.g., Morse, Mead, & Kelleher, 1967). As an example, consider a child who reacts with (genuine) fear to having to go to school. Sensitive parents may correctly identify the behavior as fear and respond helpfully by reassuring the child, modeling coping behavior, and helping the child to face his or her fears. However, other parents may react to the fear

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Dadds and Salmon behavior with punishment, perhaps because of interpreting the child’s behavior as manipulative, weak, or similar. Punishing the fear response will lead to stress reactions in the child that escalate the situation, and result in further child behaviors that are increasingly nonresponsive to punishment. This sequence has broader consequences for punishment with this child that go further than the school refusal–fear scenario. In the future, use of similar punishment strategies by the parents are increasingly likely to result in similar escalations in child behavior. That is, the punishment comes to reliably elicit the problem behavior (e.g., Morse et al., 1967).

Avoidance Responses Are Punished Similar to the above are sequences in which learned avoidance behaviors are punished. That is, a behavior that has been learned to avoid the onset of an aversive is punished. In a typical demonstration of this, McKearney (1969) showed that squirrel monkeys, after a long history of being trained to press a response key to avoid shock, continued to press the key when the only consequence of doing so was the delivery of shock on a fixed interval 10-min schedule. Telling lies is a problem behavior that fit this scenario and is commonly reported by parents of children with conduct problems as being difficult to manage. As a part of normal development, children will experiment with lying to avoid punishment. If the behavior is repeatedly successful in avoiding punishment, the behavior will become established as an avoidance strategy. If the parents then try to punish this behavior, using the analogy shown by McKearney (1969), the punishment will maintain the behavior in its own right. Any caregiver who has had to deal daily with conduct problem children will recognize this scenario in which lying, for example, appears to persist despite obvious guilt and attempts to punish the behavior.

Punishment Increases Gradually to Extreme Levels Gradually increasing the severity of aversive stimuli compromises their effects on behavior. This is particularly true where the aversive stimuli are presented at levels that initially do not suppress the behavior, and then increased in steps that, similarly, are not large enough to suppress behavior. As an example of this effect, Miller (1960) found that rats trained to run down an alley for food could be induced to

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Punishment Insensitivity and Parenting continue running even when severe shocks were given in the goal box, provided they had been exposed to a series of shocks of gradually increasing intensity. Animals receiving the intense shock at the outset, however, showed complete suppression of running. This effect is similar to Patterson’s original description of attempts to punish behavior in the families of conduct problem children (Patterson, 1982). He described the parental behavior of “nattering” in which the parent constantly directs low-level instructions, demands, put-downs, and so on, at the child in an attempt to stop naughty behavior. This nattering is unsuccessful in stopping the behavior, and the parent typically shows a gradual increase in the aversiveness of their responses, until extremes of physical punishment may be used. Given the slow escalation, the final punishment is unlikely to have any desirable effect on the original behavior. Patterson (1982) spoke about the desirable alternative of having the parents engage in one highly salient and effective punisher early in the sequence of child misbehavior, for example, time-out. However, in a recent review of “ordinary physical punishment,” Larzelere (2000) concluded that using graduated punishments such as spanking or time-out to back up milder correction strategies was an effective and appropriate parenting technique. This is not inconsistent with our conclusions. The current analysis points to problems with escalations from mild to extreme forms of punishment over extended time periods; Larzelere (2000) is referring to the usefulness of changes within mild levels of punishment and delivered in short temporal proximity to the problem behavior.

Punishment Is Noncontingent Another noted characteristic of families of conduct problem children is the use of noncontingent aversives. Parents may attack children for a variety of reasons, including the parent’s stress and their own emotional and behavioral problems, and odd beliefs about the child and the necessity of regular punishment. The occurrence of such noncontigent stimuli can produce particularly noxious effects on behavior. Morse et al. (1967) found that squirrel monkeys exposed to regular, noncontingent presentations of shock tended to pull and bite on a restraining leash. If their biting was then punished on a fixed interval 30-s schedule, they showed an increase in the rate of responding as the moment approached when the response would be punished.

79 Clearly, the use of such noncontingent aversives will produce both general stress reactions in the child and attempts to avoid the imminent punishment. As we saw above, the stress response will be unresponsive to further punishment, and the avoidance behavior will persist despite, and in fact will be maintained by, attempts to punish it.

Contextual Effects of Shifting Contingencies Attempts to understand extinction have revealed interesting roles for context in learning. Where contingencies shift, for example, punishment is applied to previously rewarded behavior or vice versa, context is used to disambiguate inconsistencies. That is, aspects of the environment are used to make sense of the changes. As an example, a child who has been rewarded for jumping into mother’s bed in the morning may find that the behavior comes to elicit a very different reaction one day. This may be due to a multitude of reasons that may or may not be clearly explained to the child, including maturation of the child, the arrival of new partner or new child for the mother, and so on. Most children will have to negotiate such transitions and will do so without major problems. However, the discovery that context is used to disambiguate changing contingencies brings other findings with it. Typically, reversions to original learning will occur when context is changed. Thus, the original behavior will be reinstated if salient aspects of the context change. The more contexts change, the more new learning will be lost and the child will persist, or keep reverting, to behaviors learned at earlier stages of life. For a child raised in relatively stable conditions, new learning will be resistant to such contextual effects. Where the learning environment is relatively stable in terms of both consistency of consequences for behavior and the physical environment in which it occurs, behavior will not be overly dependent on context cues. For children raised in constantly shifting environments where consequences for behavior are highly variable, a very different picture may arise. Changing consequences for behavior become context-dependent, and then changes in context will be associated with reversions to earlier learning. Evidence indicates that children at risk for antisocial behavior are often raised in unstable environments as well as being exposed to a maze of constantly shifting parental behavior. Under these conditions, changes in parental behavior will be disambiguated

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80 via contextual cues, and where these change, the child will show reversions to early behavioral patterns. Thus, changes in the physical environment (moving house), changes in the constitution of the household (new members, people leaving), and so on, will be associated with reversion to old learning, and the child may show behaviors that are particularly inappropriate for his or her age. Many of these will be operants, others will be instinctive (elicited) behaviors that are not responsive to punishment. This phenomenon may be another part of the punishment jigsaw. That is, the child in the constantly changing environment will show relatively high rates of reversion to earlier learning and much of this will be largely unresponsive to new punishment strategies.

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Dadds and Salmon problem children has consistently pointed to the hegemony of anger and aggression at the expense of other emotional currency. Children, in particular boys, in these families often lack vocabularies for negative emotions apart from anger, and much family interaction only contains these emotions. When such children are in nonfamily environments, where anger and aggression would be considered inappropriate and would not be used for everyday behavior management, they may appear particularly unresponsive to common discipline strategies. Caregivers in these environments try naturally to minimize their level of aversive control, however, in the face of repeated failures, they may show the gradual escalation in punishment use, that was shown above to contribute to further insensitivity to punishment in the child.

Restricted Affect and Punishment The idea that the communication of emotions is important for the effects of punishment has clear face validity but has been the subject of little research. However, the important research by Blair and colleagues (see above), while far from conclusive, alerts us to the import role emotions may play. Persons with high psychopathy traits may be particularly unresponsive to fear and sadness, both in terms of their own reactions (see Hare, 1998) and in terms of perceiving them in other people. Most discipline with children involves communications of approval versus disapproval and these will signal other possibilities. A smile from a parent, apart from its intrinsic rewarding value, will come to be associated with all sorts of other positive outcomes. Frowns from parents will come to signal the likelihood of more unpleasant outcomes for the child, and a parent’s fear will signal to the child that risky outcomes could follow. That is, these will occur if these signals are salient to the child. As was noted in the PI literature above, a person high in psychopathic traits may be insensitive to these signals due to a basic insensitivity to these emotions, or a deficit in ability to attend to contextual cues when they are engaged in reward-driven behavior, or both. Under these conditions, we would expect that various emotional cues commonly used to influence child behavior (e.g., a frown, sadness, a worried expression) will have little impact, and parents may be tempted to escalate their disciplinary behavior to more severe means. Learning factors may be important in this. The vast literature on families of conduct

COERCIVE TRAPS: PARENTING AND PUNISHMENT INSENSITIVITY In the previous section, we saw that there are many ways in which punishment can produce unintended effects of cueing or escalating unwanted behavior, and that these unintended effects are not modifiable by further use of punishment. From Patterson’s operant models, we know that cycles are likely to form in which escalations of punishment delivery and lack of response to the punishment, are likely to occur, such that target behaviors, or the person him or herself, may then appear insensitive to punishment. Some of the more ineffective, or perhaps destructive, parenting styles characteristic of families of conduct problem children will include a multitude of these learning processes, that probably multiply their individual toxicity. Important for this paper, however, is the idea that these learning processes will interact with the characteristics of the child to escalate or diminish risk. Thus, the important questions remain: how can parenting avoid getting caught up in an escalating cycle with children who show low sensitivities to punishment, thus contributing to both the development of aggressive, antisocial behavior as well as the facilitation of further insensitivity to punishment? How can such children be parented to minimize their risk? To answer this, we begin by presenting a model of the pathways by which PI will escalate. Figure 1 shows factors in the child and parental behaviors that are likely to form escalating circles. The model builds upon Patterson’s original idea of coercive cycles (Patterson, 1982) by recognizing that not only

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Fig. 1. Aspects of punishment insensitivity and likely interactions with parenting.

will the cycles driven by and lead to increasing aggression and antisocial behavior, they also are driven by and lead to characteristics of the child that will affect specific responses to punishment and socialization across multiple societal systems. What are the implications of this model for parenting and parent training interventions? Clearly, most of the recommendations that follow would look like traditional parent training principles; focusing on positive behaviors and avoiding escalating punishment cycles. However, more subtle variations in parenting can be identified according to these specific characteristics of the child. Ambiguity remains about whether parenting strategies can focus on PI directly or more effectively on more basic dimensions of temperament (e.g., weak BIS, poor effortful control) that interact with learning factors, to produce a PI style. Little research has tackled these variations; however, Kochanska’s work on parenting and the development of conscience is a useful exception. Kochanska (1993, 1994) proposed that two temperamental processes are fundamental; first, the child’s fearfulness and vulnerability to affective discomfort, given an anticipated or committed transgression; and, second, the child’s ability to inhibit the forbidden impulses and to perform desirable responses. These factors interact with other

developmental capacities such as social referencing and the child’s capacity to access relevant internal representations of the parent even when she or he is not present (Kochanska, 1994). Her constructs of “fearfulness–fearlessness” and “affective discomfort” dimensions of temperament are closely related to the idea of punishment sensitivity resulting from low responsiveness to aversives discussed here, and the inhibition of impulses clearly related to ideas of effortful control and Newman’s attentional control. Kochanksa (1995) proposes that these moderate the impact of parental socialization. Specifically, for children who are relatively fearful and anxious, parental gentle interventions may be effective because they lead to the optimal level of discomfort and promote internalization. For children who are relatively fearless, gentle methods of parenting may not be equally beneficial, because the discomfort they elicit may be below the optimal level. Neither is increasing the amount of applied power likely to be effective for those children, because this will promote anger and resentment, and external attributions for conduct (Kochanska, 1993, 1995). Kochanska (1997) reported on a longitudinal study of children’s temperament as a moderator of the impact of socialization on conscience development at

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82 2–3 years, ages 4 and 5 that provided support for her theoretical position. Specifically, more fearful children have been found to perform better than those less fearful on a range of measures of conscience (for example, games in which the child could cheat, hypothetical moral dilemmas; Kochanska, 1995, 1997; Kochanshka, DeVet, Goldman, Murray, & Putnam, 1994; Rothbart et al., 1994). Moreover, the predicted role of socialization practices with respect to moderating the influence of temperament has been supported for relatively fearful children; that is, gentle discipline practices which de-emphasised power and capitalized on the child’s internal discomfort served to promote conscience, whereas for fearless children, security of attachment and parental responsiveness promoted conscience at different time periods (Kochanska, 1995, 1997). Fowles and Kochanska (2000) assessed electrodermal reactivity in the same children at age 4. This reactivity was used as a physiological reflection of fearful temperament to complement the observational data and maternal ratings of fearfulness. For electrodermally reactive children, gentle discipline predicted conscience, whereas for nonreactive children, attachment security predicted conscience. These results were particularly impressive as they paralleled the results obtained on the rating scale and observational measures, and held irrespective of whether the fearlessness was used as a dimensional measure or extreme groups of children were formed using this dimension. The authors concluded that electrodermal reactivity at an early age is a correlate of temperament, a moderator of socialization in early moral development, and, importantly, that “lovelessness in psychopathic individuals as an index of the failure of the alternative pathway (via attachment) to conscience in fearless children” (Fowles & Kochanska, 2000, p. 794). This raises the possibility that if parents of fearless children parents capitalize on positive motivation arising within the context of a warm and mutually responsive parent–child relationship, then they may also develop well-internalized conscience, albeit via a different pathway Above and beyond the influences of affective discomfort and level of fearful-fearlessness and socialization, the independent influence of effortful control on the development of conscience has been established (Kochanska, Murray, & Coy, 1997; Kochanska et al., 1996). For example, Kochanska et al. (1996) reported that children higher on effortful or inhibitory control showed greater compliance on behavioral tasks (for example, complying with their mother’s and the ex-

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Dadds and Salmon perimenter’s rules in situations where they believed they were unsupervised) and on maternal report. With greater attentional flexibility, children may be able to refrain from committing an attractive but prohibited act or execute rather mundane but socially desirable behavior. More generally, these children may have a greater capacity to resist distraction and attend to appropriate information for linking negative feelings, the consequences of their actions, and moral principles (Derryberry & Rothbart, 1997; Kochanska, 1993). Children higher on effortful control have also been found to show greater empathy; the ability to disengage attention from one’s own perspective to attend to another’s is the hallmark of empathy (Rothbart et al., 1994). It must be noted, however, that there is limited research investigating the development of conscience in fearless children and clinical populations; Kochanska’s longitudinal sample experienced only low levels of behavioral problems (Murray & Kochanska, 2002). Kochanska (1993) speculates that highly impulsive children—presumably those high on fearlessness and low on effortful control—whose parents create chaotic and unpredictable environments may develop serious deficiencies in their ability to observe standards of behavior, and that these parents may use increasingly salient pressure to socialize their children’s transgressions reaching the point of ineffectiveness due to the level of anger. There is other evidence that indirectly supports the idea that the attachments may be more important in protecting against antisocial behavior than the specific learning processes. Studies that assess the relationship between father–son contact and antisocial behavior in boys find that the closer the relationship, the less antisocial behavior even where the father is clearly antisocial himself (e.g., Tapscott, Frick, Wootton, & Kruh, 1996; see Frick, 2002, for a review). Such research is very difficult to design and conduct and thus, fraught with methodological problems (Frick, 2002); however, the results have consistently failed to support a modeling hypothesis. Rather, any sort of relationship with the parent appears better than none. Thus, our own analysis and the results of the longitudinal data above lead us to the following conclusions. A relatively low responsiveness to punishment cues may, in combination with other factors, be a risk factor for developing antisocial behavior. The construct has been used to refer to a diverse but overlapping set of propensities including low arousal

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Punishment Insensitivity and Parenting to aversive stimuli, low fearlessness, low conditionability (avoidance learning), reward dominance, and deficits in attentional control to contextual stimuli, particularly while in a reward-driven state. These propensities are generally held to represent a “temperamental” factor, that is, trait-like and largely inherited. However, environmental conditions and learning history can have a significant influence of the growth or diminishment of responsiveness to punishment. That is, environmental or social learning processes can alter, over time, sensitivity to punishment such that the child will become increasingly difficult to socialize through discipline methods. Punishment insensitivity will exacerbate coercive cycles of aversive parent–child interactions such that an escalating cycle of punishment may be attempted by the parent to manage the child’s behavior. This is unlikely to be effective; rather, it may lead to not only increases in aggressive antisocial behavior as described by Patterson (1982), but also further diminishment in the child’s sensitivity and responsiveness to further attempts to socialize him or her via discipline strategies. Insensitivity to punishment contingencies in humans may be further understood by the realization that the communication of negative consequences is often achieved via the communication of emotions, often by facial expressions. Communications, such as disappointment, fear, sadness, and surprise, convey important information about a caregiver’s reaction to child behavior, and will also function as conditioned or discriminative stimuli signaling to the child the likelihood of punishment. However, this is premised on the child being able to attend to, discriminate, and understand such communications. This, in turn, may be associated with the child’s capacity for sensitivity to internal and external stimuli, and for flexible attention—again reflected in effortful control. The emerging evidence that children and adolescents with conduct problems and high psychopathy have deficits in the processing of emotional stimuli alerts us to consider these processes in such children’s reactions to, or failure to react to, socialization via punishment. The implications of our analysis for parenting can be summarized as follows. First, understanding variables related to children’s sensitivity to punishment will be important in designing appropriate levels and use of discipline such as disapproval, admonishment, withdrawal of privileges, and time-out. Young children with adequate levels of sensitivity but high levels of problem behavior and negative affectivity will respond well to clear instructions backed up with

83 clear consequences such as time-out. However, little is known about optimal parenting strategies for children with high PI or with characteristics predictive of development of PI. Children with high levels of problem behavior and characteristics related to high PI may remain unaffected by time-out and other forms of appropriate discipline, or lacking the skills to suspend reward-driven behavior, may respond with escalating anger and revenge for the punishment. The emerging evidence, while still speculative, indicates that children high on PI may be more likely to develop self-controlled, conscience-driven behavior via the establishment of close, positive relationships, than by avoidance of punishment. Previous writers have noted the importance of close attachment bonds in the likelihood that a child will cooperate with an adult. For example, Wahler and colleagues have worked for several years to delineate the relationships between general positive aspects of parent–child interaction and specific aspects of child compliance to parental instructions and requests (e.g., Strand, Wahler, & Herring, 2001). van Ijzendoorn (1997) has summarized emerging arguments that positive attachment experiences may be an important factor in the development of conscience and protection against antisocial behavior. He speculates that it is the emotional ties and reciprocated caring that provide the basis for empathic, moral behavior and no amount of learning in the absence of love can replace this. For children who are highly reward driven and relatively unresponsive to punishment contingencies, a close relationship will help them to learn the positive benefits of mutually caring, rewarding behavior, while circumventing likely punishment traps. Of course, all children need and deserve this; we are not arguing that it is specific to high PI children. Rather, we are arguing that the avoidance of escalating punishment cycles is particularly important with these children, and that energy devoted instead to the development of closer bonds may provide an alternative pathway to the development of conscience. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Thanks to Juliana Charlson and the two anonymous reviewers, each of whom provided excellent comments on the substance of this paper. REFERENCES Allport, G. (1961). Pattern and growth in personality. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

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