Skip to main content


Preventing Problematic Behavior
  At Home, in School, and at Work

G. Roy Mayer
San Diego State University

Michele D. Wallace
California State University, Los Angeles

paper / 76 pages / $14.95
Table of Contents
Request a review copy
(faculty only)

Purchase a copy

From the Preface...

Problematic behaviors are a concern to everyone. It has been a primary interest of the authors for many years. Mayer’s primary research focus since the 1970s has been on the prevention of problematic behaviors. Some of his earliest work on problem prevention was highlighted in Parade Magazine entitled: “New research shows praise works best. Should you spare the rod?” Wallace’s research has focused on prevention, assessment, and treatment of problem behavior. Moreover, her clinical practice has focused around helping caregivers (e.g., parents, teachers, and job coaches) to prevent and eliminate problem behavior displayed by both children and adults.

   The combination of their work, as well as the research in the field of applied behavior analysis, provides a framework that summarizes the factors that contribute to the cause of various problematic behaviors. Also, a variety of interventions addressing these likely causes are now available that show promise in helping prevent problematic behavior. These findings have been pulled together to share these causes and interventions throughout this book and provide a helpful guide for caregivers in various settings within the home, school, and work.

   The authors begin by discussing punishment, its advantages and disadvantages, and how it contributes to various problematic behaviors. Then, they share a variety of additional factors that have been discovered to contribute to problematic behaviors. Next, they review reinforcement, in that it underlies so many effective interventions and can truly prevent the development of problematic behavior. Following reinforcement, they share a number of interventions shown to help prevent the occurrence of both punishment and problematic behaviors, including many that help promote socially desirable behaviors.

   Their focus throughout this book is on families and schools. However, the concepts and many of the interventions apply in all settings where people live, play, and work. They share several illustrations and studies conducted in such settings to help illustrate their universal application. 

  This book will be of particular interest to parents, teachers, school administrators, psychologists, counselors, behavior analysts, supervisors, and CEOs; anyone concerned with the prevention of problematic behaviors in the setting in which they live, work, or play.  

A Note from the Authors 
Current societies place a much greater emphasis on addressing problem behavior than they do on the prevention of such behavior. In part, this is because when problem behaviors are addressed successfully, it is very reinforcing. Also, because many prevention studies tend to occur over a long period of time in contrast to addressing behavior that is causing immediate problems, reinforcement for using preventive interventions is delayed (one might even say hidden, because prevention means that problem behavior doesn’t occur to begin with) in comparison to the immediate reinforcement of treating the occurrence of problem behavior when it happens. Interventions for preventing problem behaviors, then, produces no immediate, flashy results. The results are elusive. They don’t provide immediate gratification, but they do produce long lasting benefits.  

  Prevention can save society megabucks, save a lot of frustration, and even save lives. Even knowing the advantages of prevention, we do not expect society to make an immediate, dramatic change by giving priority to prevention. However, we do hope that a greater emphasis will be placed on prevention throughout society, that the use of punishment will be minimized, and that many of the preventive interventions described in this book will begin to become commonly used.