Grammatical constructions in typical developing children: effects of explicit reinforcement, automatic reinforcement and parity


Publication date


Series/Report no

The Analysis of Verbal Behavior;28


Association for Behavior Analysis International

Document type


This study replicated and extended Wright (2006) and Whitehurst, Ironsmith, and Goldfein (1974) by examining whether preschool aged children would increase their use of passive grammatical voice rather than using the more age-appropriate active grammatical construction when the former was modeled by an adult. Results showed that 5 of the 6 participants began using the passive voice after this verbal behavior had been modeled. For 3 of the participants, this change was large. The change occurred even though the adult model explicitly rewarded the participant with praise and stickers for using the active voice, while providing no praise or stickers for using the passive form that was modeled. For 1 participant, the modeling procedure had no effect on use of the passive voice. These results indicate a strong automatic reinforcement effect of achieving parity with the grammatical structures used by adults, compared to the effects of explicit reinforcement by the adult. This might help to explain why children acquire grammatical structures prevalent in their language community apparently without explicit instruction




Permanent URL (for citation purposes)