The Broken Window Theory and Levels of Development

James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling made the Broken Window Theory famous in their 1982 ATLANTIC MONTHLY article:

“The unchecked panhandler is, in effect, the first broken window. Muggers and robbers, whether opportunistic or professional, believe they reduce their chances of being caught or even identified if they operate on streets where potential victims are already intimidated by prevailing conditions. If the neighborhood cannot keep a bothersome panhandler from annoying a passerby, the thief may reason, it is even less likely to call the police to identify a potential mugger or to interfere if the mugging actually takes place.”

By the same reasoning, when a discipline problem is demonstrated in a classroom and if the teacher does not attend to it, such behavior is encouraged. However, the discipline problem can easily and quickly be stopped by having the young person simply reflect on the level chosen from the Levels of Development. In the vast majority of cases, this act of reflection stops the undesirable behavior. The reason is that reflection prompts evaluation and empowers by offering alternative choices.