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Time-out is a behavior management strategy used to decrease the frequency of a behavior. It was originally derived from B. F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning: the idea that learning occurs through the reward and punishment of behavior and that learned behavior is maintained by both the antecedents and the consequences of behavior. Time-out is based on the behavioral principle of negative punishment. The goal of punishment is to decrease behavior. Negative punishment decreases a behavior by taking away something reinforcing. Based on this principle, time-out decreases an unwanted behavior by taking away access to caregiver attention, activities, or preferred items during the time-out period.

The term time-out was first used by Arthur Staats in the 1950s to describe his approach to decreasing the unwanted behavior ...

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