Monday, January 18, 2010

You treat them as what you call them

A recent study surveyed 700 mental health professionals about what what should be done about a made-up case study. In half the surveys, the person was identified as a "substance abuser," and in the other half he was said to have "a substance use disorder."

When the person was called a substance abuser, the survey respondents were more likely to believe it was his own damned fault, and they more often thought punishment was appropriate. When he was said to have a substance use disorder, they more often thought it wasn't all his fault, and treatment was appropriate.

Now apply this to a child care center. If a kid hits other kids, is he a bad kid, who needs to be punished, or does he have a personality disorder that needs to be treated? Which way you describe him may affect how punitive you act. We already know that preschool teachers treat girls differently than they do boys.

This seems to me to be related to how you react when your 2-year-old drops her spoon on the floor over and over, every time you hand it to her. If you think of her as trying to get your goat, you might punish her. If you think of her as learning cause and effect and how to drop stuff, it becomes a moment to watch her grow.

Science Daily article. Drug Monkey analysis.

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