The Effects of Anger Management Groups in a Day School for Emotionally Disturbed Adolescents

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Drawn from a day school for emotionally disturbed adolescents, seven students who scored in the clinical range on the Conduct subscale of the Conners Teacher Rating Scale took part in an anger management program. The program included psychoeducation, anger discrimination training, logging incidents of anger, and training in prosocial responses to anger. Pre-post assessments provided evidence of positive effects. The adolescents showed significant improvement on both the teacher (p [less than] .03) and the parent (p [less than].04) versions of the Conduct subscale. They also exhibited a trend toward fewer incidents of physical aggression (p [less than] .06). The implications of these findings for future research are discussed.

Perhaps no greater challenge faces the clinical and educational communities than to help troubled adolescents learn to cope with their angry feelings in a socially appropriate manner. Angry children may engage in antisocial behaviors, including acts of violence. Unfortunately, when children become aggressive at a young age, the tendency toward violent behavior seems to remain relatively stable (Fraser, 1996). Early, effective intervention is thus needed.

A growing number of researchers are addressing the needs of adolescents with anger difficulties. Feindler (1991, 1995; Feindler & Ecton, 1986; Feindler, Marriott, & Iwata, 1984) and Goldstein (1988; Goldstein & Glick, 1987) have focused on developing cognitive-behavioral skill-building approaches for helping a wide range of emotionally troubled adolescents (from the mildly anger-prone to the severely aggressive), in a variety of outpatient, public school, and institutional settings, to control anger. Their treatment efforts have included individual, group, and psychoeducational modalities. Results have been encouraging; adolescents acquired anger management skills and exhibited a reduction in the frequency and intensity of acting-out incidents.

Deffenbacher, Lynch, Oetting, and Kemper (1996) have investigated treatment specificity and efficacy. Anger-prone early adolescents attending regular schools, who were taught either cognitive coping skills or social skills, showed a reduction in inappropriate anger expression and an increase in controlled anger expression. Further, Nugent, Champlin, and Wiinimaki (1997) reported positive results when anger control techniques were taught to delinquent adolescents in a group home setting. In fact, the longer the training, the greater the reduction in antisocial, acting-out behavior.

According to Feindler and Ecton (1986), anger management training typically includes the following: (1) providing information on the cognitive and behavioral components of anger, (2) teaching cognitive and behavioral techniques to manage anger, and (3) facilitating the application of newly acquired skills. Specific skills, such as relaxation, assertiveness, anticipation, self-instruction, self-evaluation, role-play or rehearsal, and problem solving, are emphasized. In addition, participants are often encouraged to use a log, recording anger-provoking situations and assessing the degree to which anger was successfully managed.

A category of anger-prone adolescents that has not been studied sufficiently involves those who attend day schools for the emotionally disturbed. Consequently, the present study examined the impact of providing anger management training to small groups of adolescents in such a school. Students with clinically significant aggressive behavior were assessed by both teachers and parents before and after the intervention. Archival reports of aggressive incidents were also examined.

METHOD

Participants

Seven students in a day school for emotionally disturbed adolescents participated. They were assigned to anger management groups based on recommendations from teachers and clinicians, as well as self-referral. The groups were intentionally composed of students with both mild and severe anger control difficulties. …