chapter  3
13 Pages

“The Peaceful Parsonage”

WithJames R. McGovern

JOHN Pierce referred to his home as “the peaceful parsonage” at a time when there were nine of his children living there. Since families are seldom peaceful, especially with that many children, his description merits analysis. While his children were disobedient and difficult from time to time, it is probably true that they were generally cooperative with their parents and one another. This was accomplished because their parents employed extensive, almost continuous psychological pressure on them in their youth which minimized their expression as individuals, and trained them to give up their personal interests for the “greater good.” In terms of contemporary, behaviorist psychology, positive reinforcement as praise was given children for such “goods” as cooperation, obedience, learning, self-control and the approval of others. There seems to be little doubt that the Pierce children behaved acceptably in order to minimize threats of criticism from their parents and ultimately from themselves for seemingly aggressive, willful or indulgent behavior. By maintaining these contingencies of reinforcement, both positive and negative, the Pierces generated and sustained their children’s behavior. 1