Evaluation of an anger management program with aggressive children in residential treatment

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

There is a theoretical basis for assuming that certain forms of anger and aggression are interdependent. While attempts have been made to reduce aggression in children by other means, there is evidence to suggest that cognitive therapies might be useful in reducing aggression by enhancing anger-management. The present study was one of the first efforts to evaluate the efficacy of an adapted stress-inoculation procedure for anger-management in children using a controlled group design.

Subjects were 14 boys in residential treatment with presenting problems of excessive anger or aggression. The subjects, who ranged in age from 9.8 to 14.8, were randomly assigned to an Anger-management (treatment) condition or an Attention-control condition. Subjects met with a female therapist for 18 half-hour individual sessions. In the Anger-management condition, children were exposed to education about anger, relaxation and cognitive coping statements, and opportunities to rehearse and generalize coping skills. Attention-control children had equal exposure to therapists and mode of presentation, but discussed emotions other than anger. Self-report measures were administered at pre-treatment, post-treatment, and 10-week follow-up intervals. Teacher Ratings, Unit Staff ratings, and behavioral observation were taken pre- and post-treatment. The only significant changes were on self-report measures where children in the Anger-management condition reported greater reductions in anger and aggression than children in the Attention-control condition at post-treatments. This finding was compared and contrasted to recent results in cognitive therapy research. Possible explanations for the absence of significant differences on other measures were presented, and the utility of the study as a whole was discussed.