According to this theory, behavior is learned through two methods:
- We either learn by being rewarded for our actions (instrumental learning), or
- We observe and imitate the behavior of those around us (modeling).
Some researchers assume that abused children learn to be abusive using these two methods and continue their abusive behavior into adulthood. This pattern of learned aggression is commonly referred to as the “cycle of violence” or the intergenerational transmission of violence. The broad-based application of the cycle of violence theory is questioned, pointing to findings that only 20-30% of child abuse and neglect victims become involved in abusive and criminal behavior. Interventions based on social learning theory commonly have the purpose of stopping current and preventing future child abuse and neglect by teaching both the parent and child appropriate relationship skills within the family.