A Historal Look at the
Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science: 1976-1980

Coralee Gillis, Chui Lan Lau, & Michelle Robinson
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University

During the period of 1976-1980, most research studies focused on areas such as social behaviours, multiculturalism, cognitive psychology, and child development. This was an era during which a lot of social change occurred. These changes in political, cultural and economical climates influenced the focus of research psychology. With the influx of immigrants, the research topic of multiculturalism and bilingualism began to take precedent over other areas of psychology. As well, this was a time of change in the social community, which also gave rise to a concentration of research in this field. Also as a result of these changes, there was a direct effect on the study of developmental psychology (child psychology). Children from a variety of backgrounds were studied, and with the increase in the population, emphasis was placed on improving curriculae and other education issues.

Historical Background: Canadian Multiculturalism (1976-1980)

The trend of research area during the period of 1976-1980 was closely connected to Canadian political development. Many articles in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science (CJBS) were devoted to multicultural issues, especially in the conflict between French and English Canadians. Issues such as perception of cultural difference, bilingualism, inter-ethnic attitudes and national identity were explored. With the passing of the official Language Act in 1969, the equality of French and English in all government activities was affirmed. However, many conflicts also arose concerning this idea of bilingualism. Many research articles studied issues such as the motivational variable in second language acquisition, the influence of ethno-linguistic group membership, perception of cultural difference, language use et cetera. This concern for bilingualism was rooted in the conflict between French and English Canadians. In 1976, a serious blow was struck against the federal government with the victory of the PQ in Quebec. The implementation of a provincial law giving the French language preference also accelerated the conflicts between the French and English Canadians. Many English Canadians resented bilingualism and the rising power of French Canadians, even in Ottawa.

With such a political climate in the background, the CJBS during 1976-1980 devoted much attention to studying Canada's dual cultural heritage and the consequences. The articles that concerned this dual heritage included: Alienation in the workplace: a comparative study in French and English Canadian organisation, Achievement orientation and occupational values: a comparative study of young French and English Canadians, Evaluation of a French Immersion Program, and other similar titles. In May 1980, the federal government won a provincial referendum on Quebec sovereignty with nearly 60 percent of Quebec voters rejecting independence. We can see that the dual culture issue in Canada will always be a major research area since the conflict has not yet been resolved.

This period was also the Trudeau period. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a French Canadian, dominated the national politics for 15 years after the 1968 election. His effort in building national identity created a new vision in Canada. Trudeau put much attention on building a heightened national consciousness by strengthening cultural policies and subsidising Canadian participation in international sports events to raise national pride. Trudeau's government legalised immigration practices and attracted many Asian and Central and South American newcomers to Canada. Also, with the fall of Saigon the Vietnam War ended in 1975. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fled by boat and many of them eventually settled in Canada, as well as in the U.S.A., France and Australia. Furthermore, about one-third of the Jews permitted to leave the U.S.S.R. also went to the U.S.A., Australia, and Canada. This boosting of immigrants encouraged Trudeau's government to implement the idea of multiculturalism in Canada by supporting the persistence of distinct ethnic identities among the population.

Under this social and cultural influence, many psychologists turned to the area of social behaviours. Issues such as stereotype generalisation, induced compliance, attitudinal change, inter-ethnic contact, attribution, social support, and impression formation were extensively studied. This focus on social behaviours yielded a better understanding of the multicultural aspect of Canadian society.

On the other hand, many articles in CJBS during 1976-1980 were focused on Cognitive Psychology as well. In fact, cognition is the second most studied area during this period. This trend is turning away from applied and behavioural psychology during and after WWII. In 1978, Herbert Simon won the Nobel Prize for research on cognition and Roger Sperry also won the Nobel Prize for his Split-brain studies in 1981. These facts all point to the circumstance that there was a renewed interest in consciousness, mental processes and physiological bases of behaviour. Despite the dominance of applied and behavioural psychology during the post-war period, this new trend in research put the psyche back into contemporary psychology. The CJBS was also influenced by this trend during the late 1970's. Issues such as perception, conceptual relatedness, memory, imagery vividness and mental processing capacity were extensively studied.

Social Progression (1976 - 1980)

The time period from 1976 - 1980 offered a beginning of change in the attitudes and behaviours of people in Canada toward social expectations. Through these years, the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science had some articles that depicted some of the more significant changes that would begin and continue on through to today. The perspective that has been taken, with regard to these articles, is that of delinquency and associated behaviours (i.e. use of alcohol, illegal drugs and tobacco and their possible relationship to aggressive behaviour). One dominant theme presented was adolescent delinquency with an attempt to explain this in relation to personality traits as well as social factors (i.e. family support).

It was quite interesting reading some of these articles, to be able to notice where some of the progress has taken place over the past 20 years. The wording that was used in some of the articles would now be considered "politically incorrect ". In 1976, for example, one article compared "white boys" to Metis-Indian boys in an examination of "Psychological factors in juvenile delinquency". In the article the authors did not make an attempt to clarify what they meant by this. Today they would have received heat from that, given that "white" is now referred to as "Caucasian".

There were ethical issues that, if in place then, would have been violated. For example, the same volume hosted another article entitled "Changing adolescent deviant behaviour through reprogramming the behaviour of parents & teachers" which used a placebo group in the application of mental treatment (attempting to improve social interactions) of pre-delinquent youths. This approach would be considered unethical today because intervention or prevention is provided to one group that is at risk but not the other which may result in further reinforcement of the non-social interactions. To avoid breaching any ethics today, the researchers may think of doing a pretest-postest analysis, after providing all subjects with the same advantage of treatment.

An aspect of adolescence that also had a great deal of attention throughout these years was the attitudes of juveniles and the relationship to the possibility of recidivism. In 1979 one article in particular that was interesting was entitled "Effects of sex-role deviance in disturbed male adolescents on the perception of psychopathology". This article is classic "pre-feminist movement". This article looks at sex-role deviation with predefined stereotypes of what is "feminine" and what is "masculine", and if the subject fell into the "wrong" category, they were considered to be pathological. This is not as extreme as it seems as they did recognise a degree of androgyny as being "normal", but it was still fairly strict as compared to today's standards. At this time in history, homosexuality was still in the DSM as a disorder. This is probably part of how pathology was defined in this particular article. This demonstrates one way in which society (and psychology) has progressed and how it became more accepting of "pathology" in the past 20 years.

Alcohol also consumed a lot of the topics throughout these years. Prior to this time, the dangers of alcohol were not as well known. People were beginning to become educated on the effects of drinking alcohol as well as smoking tobacco. Attitudes toward alcohol consumption were the main focus of one 1977 article. The findings of this article entitled"A community approach in the recognition of alcohol abuse: The drinking norms of three Montreal communities", were that different socio-economic groups had different attitudes toward the consumption of alcohol. The researchers went on to explore whether or not a person's place on the social ladder may contribute to a drinking problem. Their conclusion was that a person's attributional personality traits, as well as their SES couldn't be ignored in the attempt to find out the reasons behind problem drinking. This perspective is still held strongly today in addition to other explanations.

The relationship of alcohol to aggressive behaviour was the topic of a further article. The article entitled"Theories of intoxicated aggression" (1980), outlined the different approaches taken with respect to this relationship. The conclusions reached in this article are still quite popular today, while the article additionally offers explanations for such relationships. Explanations like alcohol not being the only factor involved in the additionally the alcohol-aggression relationship. The authors suggest that there are other variables that come into play that need to be examined more carefully in order to draw any further conclusions.

What is really discouraging after reading all these articles is that it seems as though we are not that much further ahead in our explanation of deviant behaviour than we were 20 years ago. We still have not reached any solid conclusions as to what causes delinquent behaviour and what may prevent recidivism after incarceration. It is recognised that ideas have been further developed with regard to social groups, a person's upbringing, etc., but it is discouraging to think that there has not been a lot of change since then. The article "Correlates of recidivism and social adjustment among training-school delinquents" (1978), is the perfect representation of this point of view. This article could have just as easily been researched last year as opposed to 18 years ago. This article explains some of the causes of recidivism, although it unfortunately does not provide any solution as to how a life of crime can be avoided. Are we not at this exact place today? We can identify the problem, we just cannot solve it.

Developmental Psychology (1976-1980)

Many of the articles published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science during the years 1976-1980 concerned studies involving children. These studies had a tendency to look at culture or language as well as learning, intelligence, morality, discipline and other issues that affect education. Very few looked at home environments, parenting, or other family issues. For the five-year period, the children studied were usually in early elementary school. Children in grades one and two (aged five to eight) were the most popular to study. Very few studies involved children less than two years old or more than eleven years old.

During 1976, the topics ranged from comparisons of cognitive abilities in Inuit and white children, to the effects of narrative models on moral judgements, to an evaluation of infants' fear of strangers. A particularly interesting study looked at the effects of exposing children to narrated models about moral judgements based on either the motives of the individual or the consequences of the action. The children were later tested on whether they evaluated similar situations positively or negatively. Results showed that the children's evaluations corresponded to the narratives to which they were exposed earlier. Another study tested spatial, verbal-educational and inductive reasoning in Inuit and White children. There were found to be no differences between the two groups in any of these areas. The researchers compared these results to earlier studies, which had involved older children, finding that White children scored higher than Inuits on verbal-educational and inductive reasoning. The researchers from the 1976 study took these differing results to imply that Inuit children's scholastic abilities decreased (compared to White children's) as the time they spent in school increased. They suggested that schools should make an effort to include in their curriculum subjects that are more relevant to the Inuit children's values, needs, and abilities

During 1977, natives were again studied. This researcher, almost as though she was taking the advice offered by the 1976 study, looked at the effects of a special Indian culture oriented program. The curriculum over the year for mixed-race classes included such subjects as Ojibway language, history and ecology, Native legends, arts, music, dance and outdoor life techniques. Before and after these subjects were integrated, the children were asked to indicate their acceptance of, and preference for, members of several racial groups. Results indicated that the special program did indeed have a positive effect. Interestingly, positive changes also occurred in the control group school because of unforeseen events such as the election of a Native to the School Board in that school's area and the hiring of a Native teacher in that school. However, the most common topic for developmental studies this year was morality and conscience. An example of this was another study in which children were taught to consider intentions rather than consequences when making moral judgements.

Consistent with the trend of including studies that had implications for education, one of the studies in the 1978 issue of The Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science evaluated a French immersion program in Ottawa. The researchers used Board of Education evaluations of grade three to five students in English, mathematics, work-study skills and science. They found that children in the French immersion program were generally at an equal or higher level than students in the regular English program in most of these academic areas. They were also performing satisfactorily in French.

During 1979 and 1980, articles in the CJBS frequently focused on nursery school, or pre-school, children. One such article was entitled"Personal space in nursery school children" (1979). Using several methods, the researchers found that the four-year-olds they studied already allowed more personal space for strangers than for acquaintances and more for informal social contexts than formal ones. Boys also allowed more space between themselves than did girls. Another similar study, called "Measuring the social competence of pre-school children" (1980) studied the social interactions of three- and four-year-olds. The more socially competent children tended to be more successful in influencing the behaviour of peers. They were usually more friendly and tactful, and in most cases they were effective in mastering their social environment.

The emphasis on issues concerning education during the period of 1976-1980 probably reflected Canadian society's focus on the future. Members of Canada's rapidly changing population were not prepared to"sit back" and "go with the flow". They wanted to do what they could to improve their lives and the lives of their children, and this period was the perfect opportunity for such actions.

Throughout the period examined, it was clearly seen that the articles represented a change in Canada's identity. At this time Canadians were trying to understand what it meant to be"Canadian". There was a sudden increase in the Canadian population due to high immigration. This caused tension in Canada as Canadians were having trouble accepting the strong influence of multiculturalism and bilingualism. This tension still exists today, whether it is Quebec wanting to separate from the rest of Canada, or racial gang fights. These conflicts during 1976-1980 demanded that psychologists change their classic applied approach to a more cognitive approach to try and answer some of the questions as to why this tension exists. This also explains the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science's focus on multiculturalism and social and developmental psychology. The articles in this journal simply reflected the needs and wishes of Canadian society during this period. The questions asked by these researchers also prepared the field of Psychology for the new questions, new studies, and new answers that continue to be produced today.


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