Behaviorism and social learning theory have had a major impact on practices with children. Applied behavior analysis consists of observations of relationships between behavior and environmental events, followed by systematic changes in those events based on procedures of conditioning and modeling. The goal is to eliminate undesirable behaviors and increase desirable responses. It has been used to relieve a wide range of difficulties in children and adults, ranging from poor time management and unwanted habits to serious problems such as language delays, persistent aggression, and extreme fears.
Nevertheless, behaviorism and social learning theory offer too narrow a view of important environmental influences. These extend beyond immediate reinforcement, punishment, and modeled behaviors to children’s rich physical and social worlds. Behaviorism and social learning theory have also been criticized for underestimating children’s contributions to their own development. Bandura, with his emphasis on cognition, is unique among theorists whose work grew out of the behaviorist tradition in granting children an active role in their own learning.