The term countercontrol was first mentioned by Skinner in 1953 to describe an interaction that could occur when one person's behaviour was controlled by another. Specifically, countercontrol in this research project was defined as: action taken by a controllee in order to systematically produce behavioural effects in a controller. Since Skinner introduced the term, little research has been conducted into the phenomenon of countercontrol, yet it is suggested that the consequences of countercontrol can range from noncompliance to physical aggression. Because schools are environments in which one person's behaviour is controlled by another, and problems ranging from noncompliance to physical aggression occur in school settings to varying degrees, a research program investigating the occurrence of countercontrol in schools was conducted.
The research project was undertaken in two distinct phases involving a total of five studies. Over 1300 students from years 4 to 12 took part in the research project along with approximately 70 teachers. The first phase comprised three studies. The function of this phase was to construct and test a survey designed to assess the extent to which countercontrol occurred in schools. In the second phase of the research project the survey was administered to students in schools through two separate studies. Other surveys were also administered to the students, as well as surveys being administered to teachers in order to evaluate a full range of hypotheses and research questions. The first study in phase 2 involved a large-scale distribution of the survey to students in 10 Queensland schools. The second study was a concurrent replication including an international comparison. In this study students and teachers from five schools in New Zealand completed the surveys.
Results from phase 1 indicated that a self-report survey instrument was a satisfactory way of obtaining information from students regarding countercontrol. From the data collected in phase 1, the survey that was constructed displayed sound reliability and validity properties. A group of Singaporean secondary school students contributed to the results of phase 1 and provided further evidence that a self-report instrument was a satisfactory way of obtaining countercontrol information. Furthermore, preliminary information from the Singaporean students indicated that a systematic comparison between school students from different countries would be beneficial. A surprising finding in phase 1 was that students reported countercontrolling in both prosocial and antisocial ways.
The results in phase 2 indicated that approximately 10% of school students in years 6 and 7 reported engaging in countercontrol. Male students reported engaging in countercontrol more frequently than female students. Also, dissatisfied students reported engaging in countercontrol more frequently than satisfied students. Furthermore, students generally reported countercontrolling more when they were told to do things than when they were asked to do things by their teachers. The students' socioeconomic background was not related to the frequency with which countercontrol occurred.
The teacher characteristics that were measured in this research project were unrelated to the manifestation of countercontrol. The teachers' age, experience, gender. satisfaction, and degree of burnout were all unrelated to the occurrence of countercontrol. Also, the extent to which teachers reported seeking control in the classroom, other social situations, and life generally was unrelated to student reports of the frequency of countercontrol. Interestingly, student perceptions of the extent to which teachers behaved in a controlling manner were related to the reported frequency of countercontrol.
While the reported rates of countercontrol varied from class to class, the variation was not associated with any of the teacher variables measured in this research project. The variation was also not associated with school characteristics. There were no differences between the reported rates of countercontrol from students in private schools and students in state schools. Nor were there differences in the reported rates of countercontrol from students in rural schools and urban schools.
The results of this research project were discussed in terms of both theoretical and applied implications. Ideas for future research were explored including the experimental investigation of countercontrol. Implications were also considered for the areas of behaviour management in schools, childhood psychopathology, parent-child interactions, and aggression and violence. It was suggested that a consideration of counterconfrol, when interventions for children with problem behaviours are being devised, might assist in the successful remediation of some of the children who are currently resistant to many treatment methods.