Anger Management for Youth: Stemming Aggression and Violence

Article excerpt

Perhaps no issue involving American youth over the past several years has drawn so much negative attention as youth violence. Arrests of juveniles are at all-time highs and young people are more likely to be murdered or otherwise victimized than any other segment of the population. The political and governmental response to this reality has leaned consistently toward increasingly punitive sentencing guidelines, the adult trial of juveniles at younger and younger ages, curfews, and other mechanisms to increase social controls in the expectation that social controls will reduce crime and violence. A majority of citizens agree, however, that prevention is the preferred strategy for dealing with youth crime and violence.1

In the broad context, perhaps no approach to youth services offers more hope for increasing positive outcomes and reducing problems than focusing on positive youth development. Programs utilizing a positive youth development approach seek to create supports and opportunities that contribute to the overall healthy development of young people. A substantial body of research and literature exists to support this approach.

Anger Management for Youth: Stemming Aggression and Violence is a solid contribution to the field of prevention within a positive youth development context. Despite a title that sounds negative, Dr. Eggert has developed a well-rounded curriculum with significant potential for enhancing the cognitive and emotional development of young people. The curriculum also facilitates the acquisition of skills that allow young people to respond thoughtfully and constructively to provocation.

The curriculum is designed for use by human services professionals in a small group format in schools or other counseling settings. The groups can focus solely on anger management, or the anger management curriculum can be integrated into a larger life-skills or other psychoeducational curriculum. The small group format facilitates both development of group cohesion among participants and an environment conducive to learning specific skills. Dr. Eggert pays particular attention to the creation of a supportive learning environment through such strategies as group ownership of space, meeting needs for comfort and safety, and sensitivity to ethnicity, gender, and individual diversity.

The curriculum was developed from a cognitive-behavioral perspective, with additional support from aggression replacement training, positive peer culture, and rational emotive therapy. In other words, the curriculum empowers youths to manage behavior by recognizing and controlling the thoughts and feelings that trigger learned behavioral responses to anger-provoking situations. Empower is a much overused term in the counseling lexicon, but it is appropriate when describing the strategies employed in Anger Management for Youth groups. Both the actual content of the curriculum and the expected behaviors and abilities of the professional group facilitator focus on youths' strengths, on their ability to take active and productive leadership of the group, and on building their confidence in themselves and their ability to learn new skills and behaviors. …