Evidence for the effectiveness of Positive Discipline
Formal evaluation comparing Positive Discipline Schools with schools using other discipline programs is just beginning. However, studies of implementation of Positive Discipline techniques have shown that Positive Discipline tools produce significant results. A study of school-wide implementation of classroom meetings in a USA lower-income Sacramento elementary school over a four-year period showed that suspensions decreased (from 64 annually to 4 annually), vandalism decreased (from 24 episodes to 2) and teachers reported improvement in classroom atmosphere, behavior, attitudes and academic performance. (Platt, 1979).
A study of parent and teacher education programs directed at parents and teachers of students with “maladaptive” behavior that implemented Positive Discipline tools showed a statistically significant improvement in the behavior of students in the program schools when compared to control schools. (Nelsen, 1979) Smaller studies examining the impacts of specific Positive Discipline tools have also shown positive results. (Browning, 2000; Potter, 1999; Esquivel) Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that a student’s perception of being part of the school community (being “connected” to school) decreases the incidence of socially risky behavior (such as emotional distress and suicidal thoughts / attempts, cigarette, alcohol and marijuana use; violent behavior) and increases academic performance. (Resnick et al, 1997; Battistich, 1999; Goodenow, 1993) There is also significant evidence that teaching younger students social skills has a protective effect that lasts into adolescence. Students that have been taught social skills are more likely to succeed in school and less likely to engage in problem behaviors. (Kellam et al, 1998; Battistich, 1999)
Although specific studies of the Positive Discipline parenting program are in the early stages, programs similar to Positive Discipline have been studied and shown to be effective in changing parent behavior. In a study of Adlerian parent education classes for parents of teens, Stanley (1978) found that parents did more problem solving with their teens and were less autocratic in decision making. Positive Discipline teaches parents the skills to be both kind and firm at the same time. Numerous studies show that teens who perceive their parents as both kind (responsive) and firm (demanding) are at lower risk for smoking, use of marijuana, use of alcohol, or being violent, and have a later onset of sexual activity. (Aquilino, 2001; Baumrind, 1991; Jackson et al, 1998; Simons, Morton et al, 2001) Other studies have correlated the teen’s perception of parenting style (kind and firm versus autocratic or permissive) with improved academic performance. (Cohen, 1997; Deslandes, 1997; Dornbusch et al, 1987; Lam, 1997).
Positive Discipline is based on Adlerian Psychology Alfred Adler (1870 - 1937) was a Viennese psychiatrist who immigrated to the United States. Though a contemporary of Freud, he promoted a substantially different view of human behavior. Adler believed that behavior moves toward a goal of belonging and significance that is influenced by each individual’s decisions about themselves, others, and the world. Rudolf Dreikurs (1897 - 1972), also a Viennese psychiatrist, was the director of one of the child guidance centers in Vienna that used Adler’s methods with families and classrooms. He immigrated to the United States to avoid Nazi persecution in 1937, earlier in his career than Adler. Dreikurs was one of the first people to recognize the benefits of groups in therapy. He was a tireless advocate for relationships based on mutual respect, both at home and at school. His well known books include Children the Challenge, Maintaining Sanity in the Classroom, The Psychology of the Classroom.
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