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SCARE: An Anger and Aggression Intervention for Adolescents Rhonda Williams University of Calgary


SCARE: An Anger and Aggression Intervention for Adolescents Current research has shown that emotions such as anger and acts of aggression can impede academic engagement, social development and school success (Durlak et al., 2011). The purpose of this study was to determine if at-risk adolescent students who participated in the Student Created Aggression Replacement Education (SCARE) program would show a reduction in aggression and anger levels in comparison to a control group. The SCARE program was created using the perspectives and feedback of students on how to reduce violence in schools in conjunction with best practices reported in research for minimizing violence and aggression in children. It was constructed as a meta-theoretical approach focusing on anger management and coping skills for adolescents and young adults by teaching about emotions, recognizing alternatives to aggressive responses and encouraging good decision-making in response to provocative situations. The SCARE curriculum is divided into three distinct yet related sections. The first section, Recognizing anger and violence in the community, focuses on providing a clear definition of anger and violence that engages youth and motivates them to learn anger reduction skills. The next section, Managing and reducing anger in the self, teaches effective prosocial strategies for managing their own emotions and aggressive impulses through psyhcoeducation, skill acquisition and application training such as role plays. The final section, Defusing anger and violence in others, emphasizes preventative techniques and promotes peaceful resolutions to hostile situations. In addition to the experimental treatment group, a control group was also created. The Enter Here curriculum is a 16 session video-based vocational education program that is void of emotionally stimulating content. Each one hour session had the students watch a 15 to 20 minute video followed by a 30 to 40 minute structured group discussion. The study consists of a sample of 207 seventh, eighth and ninth grade students were selected from two alternative middle schools in central Arizona that were identified as at-risk academically and behaviourally during the 1999-2000 school year. These students were deemed at-risk according to a continuum of violent and destructive behaviours in schools, requiring secondary prevention interventions for behavioural and disciplinary problems to prevent progressing to chronic or intensive behaviour (Sugai, Sprague, Horner & Walker, 2000 as cited in Herrmann & McWhirter, 2003). Of the 207 students included in the study (149 males and 58 females), there were 58 in the seventh grade, 106 in the eighth grade and 43 in the ninth grade. The student sample was roughly comprised of 50% Hispanic, 40% Anglo, 5% African American, and 5% other ethnic backgrounds. Students who only spoke Spanish and special education students were not included in the study. The authors do not further articulate their parameters regarding what constituted special education. Considering the alternative school programs used in the study could generally be identified as special education, clarification is required. Graduate students from the Counseling (masters) and Counseling Psychology (doctoral) programs from a local university were trained to teach the SCARE curriculum (experimental group) as well as the Enter Here vocational educational curriculum (control group). Several measures were used to assess student anger and aggression levels pre and post intervention for each group. However, definitions of both anger and aggression are not articulated within the study. Given that aggression can be demonstrated in several ways (e.g. physical, verbal, social) this construct requires further clarification (Smith, Graber & Daunic, 2009). Three subscales (State-Anger, Trait-Anger and Anger Control) from the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI) were used as a self-report measure to assess anger intensity, chronic or dispositional anger and how often the student attempts to control the expression of anger. The Aggression subscale of the Missouri Peer Relations Inventory (MPRI) was also used by parents and students to measure levels of aggression in adolescent peer relationships and social behaviours. The parents were mailed the MPRI both before and after the treatment intervention was implemented with parents returning completed forms to the school. The Attitudes Towards Guns & Violence Questionnaire (AGVQ) subscale Aggressive Response to Shame was used as another self-report to measure sensitivity to disrespect from others and the belief that violence should be used to repair damaged self-esteem. In addition to the previously mentioned self-report and parental rating scale, school disciplinary records were also used as a


measure of aggressive behaviour reported by teachers 40 days before and after the implementation of the intervention. After completing the battery of pretest measures, students were randomly assigned to either the SCARE or the Enter Here curriculum group were they completed 16 one hour sessions over a period of 8 weeks (twice weekly). At the end of the 8-week intervention, the posttest measures were again administered. A one-year follow-up assessment was conducted using the self-reporting scales only as parental responses and disciplinary records were deemed inconsistent. In order to maintain intervention integrity, the authors implemented training sessions consisting of mock training administrations and treatment instructions for both conditions. Written training protocols were used as well as random spot checked conducted by independent observers during program implementation for approximately 33% of the total sessions to ensure uniformity and adherence to procedures and protocols. After accounting for missing data from incomplete pre and posttests, erroneous treatment implementation with one group and removing students who did not participate in 10 or more sessions, the final number of participants in the study were 67 males and 22 females (N=89). The results from the SCARE intervention found an overall small statistically significant decrease of anger measures (effect size of .10) as well as a decrease of aggression measures (effect size of .13) for students in the SCARE curriculum group when compared to the control group. These findings suggest adolescents who participated in the SCARE program viewed themselves as better able to manage their emotions and anger responses and reduce the frequency of anger towards others. They also view themselves as less likely to use violence and aggression as a way to express their frustrations in hostile situations. However, in a one year follow-up analysis after the SCARE program (N=34), students did not maintain the gains regarding anger measures but did have significantly less aggressive attitudes towards settling conflicts (AGVQ scores). While the SCARE program is a promising treatment approach that targets the reduction of maladaptive anger and aggression attitudes in adolescents, there are areas where further research is needed to improve the intervention effectiveness. This study used several experimental measures that proved to be ineffective in measuring aggression as a dependent variable. Specifically, the MPRI parent form and Detention/Referral records were excluded from analysis because of lack of data and non-standard methods to reporting aggressive incidents within the school setting. The remaining measures used within the study assessed self-reports of anger and aggression. While this can be valuable information, gathering data from only one source places a lot of emphasis on student self-awareness rather than collecting data from multiple sources such as direct observations; ratings by parents, teachers and staff; role play methods and self- monitoring (Feindler & Engel, 2011). Typically at-risk students struggle with executive functions, negatively impacting their ability to accurately reflect on their own actions and behaviour changes (Smith, Graber & Daunic, 2009). Other statistically sound measures regarding anger and aggression should be explored in the future (such as the Eyberg Child Behaviour Inventory, Childrens Inventory of Anger and Childrens Hostility Inventory; see Smith, Graber & Daunic, 2009 for an overview). Increase in consistent use of identified measures will support comparison between intervention models regarding anger and aggression research. As indicated by the authors, more research is also required regarding the positive impact of booster sessions within the treatment model to maintain gains made during the initial implementation. Typical anger management protocols focus on physiological, cognitive and behavioural components to help develop self-control (Feindler & Engel, 2011). While the SCARE focuses on physiological and some cognitive and behavioural components, the treatment program lacks specific problem-solving and a parental component which have been proven to increase treatment impact on anger and aggression (Feindler & Engel, 2011; Linseisen, 2008; Springer & Lynch, 2008). However, because the SCARE program utilizes easy to follow protocols over a relatively short period of time (8 weeks), the curriculum could be implemented as a school-wide intervention, integrated within classroom health or life skills lessons, or used in a dyadic counseling setting.

SCARE: ANGER AND AGGRESSION References Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D. & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405-432. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01564.x Feindler, E. L. & Engel, E. C. (2001) Assessment and intervention for adolescents with anger and aggression difficulties in school settings. Psychology in the Schools, 48(3), 243-253. doi:10.1002/pits.20550 Herrmann, D. S. & McWhirter, J. J. (2003). Anger & aggression management in young adolescents: An experimental validation of the SCARE program. Education and Treatment of Children, 26(3), 273302. Linseisen, T. (2008). Effective interventions for youth with oppositional defiant disorder. In Franklin, C., Harris, M. B. & Allen-Meares (Eds.), The School Practioners Concise Companion to Mental Health (pp. 35-50). New York, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. Springer, D. W. & Lynch, C. J. (2008). Effective interventions for students with conduct disorder. . In Franklin, C., Harris, M. B. & Allen-Meares (Eds.), The School Practioners Concise Companion to Mental Health (pp. 3-18). New York, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. Smith, S. W., Graber, J. A. & Daunic, A. P. (2009). Review of research and research-to-practice issues. Mayer, M. J., Van Acker, R., Lochman, J. E. & Gresham, F. M. (Eds.), Cognitive-Behavioural Interventions for Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: School-Based Practice (pp. 111-142).New York, New York: The Guilford Press.