Behavioral Management 






Family Behavioral Management 

Behavior control refers to patterns of behavior that a family uses for dealing with family situations (Epstein, Bishop, Ryan, Miller & Keitner, 1993). Researchers at Virginia State University have recognized four different classes of family behavior control: flexible, rigid, laissez-faire, and chaotic.

Where there is a rigid style of family behavior control it tends to have no flexibility, which means there is a lack of negotiation or suggestions on possible change. This type of behavioral control force individuals to obey according to family rules only.

A family that follows a flexible behavioral control style is a contrasting view from the rigid style previously mentioned. This type of family behavioral control allows families to adapt to changes that surface within the family.

The laissez-faire style is even more malleable than the flexible approach. This type of family behavior control lacks a set of rules and values that are the root of their family structure.

Chaotic style doesn’t have a set belief on rules either but they tend to do a lot of “jumping around” on beliefs leaving family members confused on their roles. This also leads to confusion on what rules to abide by if they are constantly changing. 

Research shows that families who are able to adapt to different situations that they are confronted with are a healthier group with better relationships. Being part of a rigid style of behavioral control seems to be the more conflicting one resulting in family resentment. Behavioral control is necessary for a successful family functioning.

The Essential Parenting webpage briefly outlined 3 levels of behavioral control: instincts and external parental control, superego (internal parental control) and pearl (internal ideals and aspirations). 

Level 1: Instincts guided by external parental control

Example: A child may want to run to the middle of the street to follow a loose ball or eat something that can choke on but the parent simply stops that action by their physical control.

Level 2: Superego controls instinctual expressions 

Example: Parental control guides the child through an internalized mechanism. A child is taught a set of values and beliefs from their parents that guide their behaviors even when the parent is absent. A child may want to hit another child in the playground but thinks about possible punishments so doesn’t act on it.

Level 3: The Pearl guides the person towards what is “right”

This simply guides the child by their own sense of what’s right from wrong. Often, the pearl guides individuals as during their stages of maturity.

The idea of the outlined behavioral control is to step away from punishment for misbehaving. When individuals are frequently forced and terrorized to get them to behave, their aspiration to do the right thing for the right reasons weakens. Children only stop the bad behavior to avoid punishment or receive a reward.  This causes good behavior to go unnoticed because there is no one there to maintain it. 

**Please keep in mind that if there is damage or dysfunction in the lateral prefrontal cortex, which is involved in broad aspects of executive behavioral control, it can also be the cause of a debilitating understanding of general concepts.


Peterson , Rick . "Virginia Cooperative Extension ." Families First-Keys to Successful Family Functioning: Behavior Control. N.p., 1 Apr. 2009. Web. 3 Jan. 2014.

Nuefeld , Gordon , and Lawrence Kohlberg. "3 Levels of Behavioral Control." Essential Parenting RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Jan. 2014. <>.

Tanji, J., & Hoshi, E. (2008). Role of the Lateral Prefrontal Cortex in Executive Behavioral Control. Physiological Reviews, 88(1), 37-57. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00014.2007