Efficacy of Behavioral Contracting: Target Behaviors, Performance Criteria, and Settings

D. S. Kirschenbaum, P. Karoly, Paul Karoly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This study assessed the efficacy of behavioral contracting in a classroom setting, and the generalization of effects across three target responses andone other classroom. A replicated single-subjects design was used with fiveadult students as subjects. The students had recent histories of seriousproblems in adjustment and were enrolled in a remedial educational program.Contracting produced gains for two of the students, as measured by observational recording of classroom participation and standardized test performance. Substantial improvements were observed in the two students whose contractedtarget behavior, “classroom participation,” included features that shouldhave enhanced its malleability according to operant principles. Behaviorchange was also limited to the setting in which contracting was operational. Providing explicit criteria and general goals for appropriate performanceappeared to affect setting-specific behaviors of only those students whose initial performance was extremely inadequate. Discussion focuses on theimportance of assessing effects of contracting across target behaviors and settings, accentuating relevant topographic and setting features of target behaviors, setting realistically attainable goals, and assessing knowledge oftarget behaviors and perhaps other dispositional variables prior to implementing behavioral contracting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-518
Number of pages20
JournalBehavior Modification
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1982

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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