When used in behavioral psychology, the term reinforcement means a consequence which strengthens an organism’s behavior in future whenever the specific behavior is preceded by an antecedent stimulus. This can be observed as an increase in the frequency of the behavior or also as an increase in the duration in which the behavior is exhibited by the organism. Punishment on the other hand is used in psychology to mean the imposition, authoritatively, of something that is unpleasant or undesirable upon an individual or even upon a group of people as a protest against the behavior that has been exhibited which is deemed by the authority as a violation of some standards and hence is undesirable. This can come inform of infliction of physical pain, being denied some rights or not being allowed to access something that is desirable or pleasant. Finally, extinction is the diminishing of the frequency of occurrence of a certain learnt behavior to an extent of sometimes stopping occurring at all. All the three terms above describe things that occur in our daily encounters with each other which help either in cementing our relationships or on the reverse hasten the rate of development of differences and disagreements. The main question is, what role does the family and friends play in providing reinforcement, punishment and extinction.
The family as the first institution into which the child is borne has the greatest impact both socially and psychologically in the child’s development. For instance, children are taught to embrace the different gender roles and behavior from a tender age thanks to the reinforcements and punishments coupled with extinction that they have to fac. For instance, the caring nature of the females and their predisposition to be mothers is reinforced by girls being given dolls to treat as dummy children. On the contrary, the perceived nature of male being bold and protectors can be observed by the frequency they are told to be ‘men’ and not to cry even when hurt . Also, in language use, children are quickly punished within the household if they use some inappropriate words and this serves to prevent them from future use. The best case of extinction is the period, normally beyond 4 years, when even is a child cries he does not get attention unlike in the earlier years when crying would get him the attention. With time, this child stops crying because he realizes that crying does not accomplish his intentions. This comes as a result of lack of reinforcement for his crying habit.
Adults are equally affected by family in different ways. If a family member, like a daughter, does something that is good and she gets appreciated for that, she is more likely to do it better the next time in contrast to the case where an adult family member, for instance the husband, is criticized on his performance making him even less motivated to do better. A simple compliment like ‘you made a mistake, but trust me you will do better next time’ goes a long way in helping this person motivated to improve. This is the reason unappreciated house wives will whine to get the attention of their spouses.
The effect of friends in our relationships and development cannot be underestimated. If one does something that is contrary to what they believe in as friends, he risks the punishment of being forsaken by the friends. This kind of punishment is reason enough for many people never to attempt doing something alone. Equally, for I instance, a person’s behavior benefits his friends, there is a possibility of them influencing that individual to repeat it (reinforcing it) in order to continue benefiting. However, some personal behavior become extinct when one joins a certain group so that they can fit in. if for instance one used to a drunkard and he becomes friends people who do not drink, after sometime he will have to stop drinking because he does not find somebody to encourage to go drinking which with time kills the urge to drink .
Family as the basic unit of society has the greatest impact on an individual in terms of providing reinforcement, punishment and also extinction. Friends of the individual also have an influence as far as reinforcement, punishment and extinction are concerned which together shape the individuals behavior and the way they experience the environment around them.
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