Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology

Toggle Menu

Outrageous claims regarding the appropriateness of Time Out have no basis in science

Outrageous claims regarding the appropriateness of Time Out have no basis
in science.

Released September 29, 2014 by the Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology (SCCAP)
We are writing to express strong concern with the article “‘Time-Outs’ Are Hurting Your Child” by Dan
Siegel and Tina Payne Byrson (9/23/14) which described time-out as “ineffective” and seemingly equated
this practice with “physical abuse”. Based on their selective review of recent neuroscientific findings,
these authors advocate rejecting the use of time-out in favor of an alternative strategy, “time-in” which
they describe a “forging a loving relationship” through sitting or talking with or comforting the child
immediately following the child’s misbehavior.

Unfortunately, none of the authors’ conclusions regarding the rejection of time-out or the use of “time-in”
are directly supported by research evidence, nor do they reflect a clear understanding of correctly
implemented time-out. Decades of carefully controlled studies support the efficacy of time-out when used
correctly with regard to the child’s developmental and emotional status and in the context of a broader
behavioral management program. Time out appropriately used involves explaining to the child during a
non-crisis time how and why the procedure is being used. At the end of the Time Out the child should be
praised and rewarded for following the procedure, a parent hug works well at this point—akin to what
Siegel and Payne Bryson refer to as Time In. While it is possible that “time-in” by itself may be a useful
tool for some children in some circumstances, no evidence is available to support this. Thus, broad
recommendation of “time in” only is premature, and potentially harmful, in the absence of controlled and
replicated research documenting efficacy and safety. It is a disservice to the public to suggest that families
try an unproven approach when one with decades of support is available. This isn’t to say that time-out is
appropriate for every child or in every circumstance, but it is the place to start.

Marc Atkins, Ph.D., Past-President
Anne Marie Albano, Ph.D., Past-President
Mary Fristad, Ph.D., Past-President
Bill Pelham, Ph.D., Past-President
John Piacentini, Ph.D., President-Elect
Dick Abidin, Ph.D.
Kristin Hawley, Ph.D.
Yo Jackson, Ph.D.
Amanda Jensen-Doss, Ph.D.
Tara Peris, Ph.D.
Mitch Prinstein, Ph.D.
Eric Youngstrom, Ph.D.
Society for Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology

Partner Sites:

Evidence-based Services Committee of Hawaii