Stimulus control over family problem-solving behavior: The family contract game

Elaine A. Blechman, David H Olson, Irving D. Hellman

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10 Scopus citations


Six children and their single parents participated in N=1 studies in which the Family Contract Game was the intervention. The children ranged in age from 8 to 15, and presented problems including enuresis and frequent home arguments. Parent-child problem-oriented discussion was videotaped and coded when discussion was unstructured (pretreatment and post-treatment baselines) and when discussion was structured by the game. The results confirmed that the game acted as a controlling stimulus for family discussion behavior each time a family used the game to solve a family problem and write a contingency contract. The first time the families played the game, on-task problem-solving behavior accelerated significantly (t=11.08, p<.005), and off-task antagonistic behavior decelerated significantly (t=7.95, p<.005), compared to pretreatment. Improved problem solving persisted without change through the fifth and last game played. Posttreatment baseline data available for three families indicated that unstructured problem-solving behavior returned to pretreatment levels; off-task behavior accelerated significantly (t=3.91, p<.01), and on-task behavior decelerated significantly (t=7.17, p<.005), compared to the last game.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)686-692
Number of pages7
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1976

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Portions of this paper were presented at the meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, New York City, 1975. Requests for reprints should be sent to the first author at the Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, 904 Howard Avenue, Suite 2C, New Haven, CT 06519. The study was carried out when the first two authors were at the University of Maryland, College Park. Preparation of the manuscript was partially supported by NIMH grant No. 1-R01-MH-25666 to the first author. We thank the following individuals for their contributions to intervention and data collection: A. Bookman, L. Cohen, J. C. Glowa, M. Halsdorf, P. Kluge, C. Knight, J. Moran, E. Richitt, and C. Y. Schornagel.


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