Personality disorders in childhood and adolescence. The behavioral model of personality disorders

Robert A. DiTomasso, James B. Hale, Stephen M. Timchack

Research output: Book/ReportBook


In this chapter, our major thesis is that the behavioral models of learning, both operant and respondent, and their inherent principles, constructs, and processes can be useful in explaining and predicting the onset, development, and maintenance of clusters of psychopathological behaviors in children that may ultimately constitute specific criteria for one or more personality disorders. Personality disorders are characterized by three common factors: repetitive nonadaptive behavior patterns, inflexibility, and self-defeating behaviors (Millon, Grossman, Millon, Meagher, & Ramnath, 2004). We posit that the persistence, consistency, rigidity, inflexibility, and repetitiveness of these specific behaviors are primarily influenced by the presence of unique environmental stimuli, direct and vicarious learning influences, and environmental contingencies that constitute, shape, and maintain the unique learning histories of a particular child. We present a behavioral model of personality development by reviewing the critical role of learning in human behavior, the importance of behavioral principles in shaping and maintaining personality characteristics, and the value of the behavioral model in explaining and predicting personality dysfunction. Regardless of orientation, our position is that the behavioral model, as the foundation for evidence-based practice, provides the most sound technology for providing effective intervention. As knowledge of learning theory and principles (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2005) is the key to eliminating maladaptive learned habits (Wolpe, 1990), we must first examine the basic definition of learning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved). (chapter)

Original languageAmerican English
PublisherPersonality disorders in childhood and adolescence.
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007


  • behavior patterns
  • personality disorders
  • learning
  • behavioral model of personality development
  • environment
  • Behavior
  • Personality Development


  • Psychology

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