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  • Print publication year: 1995
  • Online publication date: September 2009

5 - Coercion as a basis for early age of onset for arrest


At different developmental stages, antisocial behavior may be learned in very different ways and in very different settings. It is hypothesized that young antisocial children are most likely to acquire antisocial behaviors in the home (Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992). In that setting, the most likely causal mechanism involves contingent use of aversive stimuli in escape-conditioning sequences. On the other hand, it is assumed that those who wait until adolescence to become antisocial are trained by members of the deviant peer group in settings where adult supervision is at a minimum. For them, the causal mechanisms are thought to be modeling, positive reinforcement, and avoidant conditioning rather than escape conditioning. Presumably, the early training in the home leads to early police arrest and chronic offending, whereas training in the peer group during mid-adolescence leads to late arrest but not to chronicity (Patterson, Capaldi, & Bank, 1991).

The present report is focused primarily on the early-onset path to chronic delinquent offending. There is a succession of problems to be considered. First, how is it that one family member reinforces another for being coercive? Much of this unlikely training is supposed to involve the exchange of aversive stimuli and escape-conditioning sequences. What is the evidence for such a process in family interaction? The vast bulk of family interaction, even when it involves aversive stimuli, seems relatively trivial in nature. How can the progression from trivial to high-amplitude coercive behaviors (physical assault) be explained?

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Coercion and Punishment in Long-Term Perspectives
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