Adolescent Affective Aggression: An Intervention Model

By Wells, Don; Miller, Mark J. | Adolescence, Winter 1993 | Go to article overview
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Adolescent Affective Aggression: An Intervention Model

Wells, Don, Miller, Mark J., Adolescence

Although we see, hear, and read about the aggressive nature of our society on a daily basis, the alarming statistics on aggressive behavior by our nation's youth bring the problem into focus. Over 41 million aggressive crimes were reported in the United States in 1981. Over half of these were committed by adolescents under the age of 20, and it is estimated that only one third of these aggressive acts against others are ever reported (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1983).

In our nation's secondary schools, each month, approximately 28,000 students and 5,200 teachers are physically attacked. Additionally, approximately 8% of urban high school students missed at least one day each month because they were afraid to go to school (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1983).

Certainly efforts to curb this aggressive behavior requires multifaceted efforts. Legislative support and community, school, and family involvement are all viable approaches.

Other than passive forms, aggression displayed by adolescents (either verbal or physical) is readily observable behavior. The predictive elements involving feelings and thoughts, however, tend to be more covert in nature and therefore more difficult to identify. Thus, the methods employed by teachers and parents to reduce aggressive behaviors in their adolescents often includes punishment after it occurs. Alternatively (and recommended here), cognitive/behavioral approaches afford opportunities to prevent the aggression. However, the timing of these interventions often lacks specificity. The model described here provides this specificity.

Generalized aggression may be viewed as instrumental and affective. Instrumental aggression is described as aggression without intent to do harm, while affective aggression presupposes cognitive/emotional etiologies for overtly aggressive behaviors (Geen, 1990). An example of instrumental aggression would be the motivation of a football player to tackle his opponent. However, affective adolescent aggression is the focus here, with emphasis on the indicators of aggression and the means to intervene in order to reduce the intensity and/or frequency through educational processes.

Affective (or angry) aggression may be viewed as a provoked (justifiable or not) emotional response within the context of a stimulating situation. However, affective aggression need not be motivated by anger, but may parallel the enactment of aggressive behavior (Berkowitz, 1983). It is also generally accompanied by nervous system activity and increased blood pressure and pulse rate (Johanasson, 1981).

Affective aggression may be elicited from one of two proactant variables: (1) the state of the person, and (2) the external situation. However, the specific situations that elicit aggression include a wide range of aversive conditions which cause persons to feel aroused. This arousal in potentially aggressive persons elicits the affective aggressive response (Geen, 1990).

A functional model of affective aggression, based upon Geen's theoretical model, is provided to delineate the identifiable variables in the aggression process. Strategies for identification and intervention are then provided.

Functional Affective Aggression Model

A model for functional affective aggression is provided in Figure 1. It provides a means of identifying underlying cognitive processes of aggression, and delineates components of the process through observation of its manifestations.

The model is comprised of three components: effecting stimuli; aggressive reactions (conditioned and unconditioned); and contingencies or consequences of aggression.

Effective stimuli. Both predispositional factors and eliciting circumstances can be viewed as elements which stimulate the emergence of aggressive forms of behavior. Preventative measures for aggressive youths, therefore, should focus on these specific elements. Predispositional factors can be both genetic and environmentally induced.

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Adolescent Affective Aggression: An Intervention Model


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