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Anger management in elementary school: descriptive exploration of a group intervention Kalmakoff, Sandra Mary


Factors which may be critical to the success of children's anger management programs remain largely uninvestigated. Accordingly an exploratory study was undertaken to describe some of these factors, personal and situational, as observed during the implementation of a school program on anger management. Fifty-eight students (28 males and 30 females) in grades 5, 6, and 7 (ages 10.75 to 14.0 years) participated in a 6-lesson guidance unit on anger management. The unit consisted of a didactic component, covering cognitive-behavioural anger management techniques, and an art component, promoting exploration and expression of anger-related affect through painting. The two components occurred in a different sequence within the program for each half of the sample. Subjects provided data at the beginning, middle and end of the program on anger expression stylistics (Pediatric Anger Expression Scale), state and trait anger and anxiety (Pediatric Anger Scale and Pediatric Anxiety Scale), and knowledge of curriculum content (Anger Management Questionnaire). Subjects also completed the Children's Nowicki-Strickland Internal-External control scale. Independent raters assigned ratings for degree of anger and degree of defensiveness to each of the three paintings completed by each subject within the art component. Data analysis assessed the relationship between scores on the repeated measures and paintings and the following factors: the nature and sequence of program components and activities; and subject age, ability level, gender, and locus of control. In the second painting, subjects undergoing the art component first (art-first) expressed more anger (p < .05) than those doing the didactic component first (didactic-first), while on the third painting the latter were rated as more defensive (p < .01) than the former. The sample as a whole (p < .01) and both the art-first (p < .01) and didactic-first (p < .05) groups expressed more anger in the second painting than in either of the other two. Gender differences were found in state anger and knowledge of curriculum content at mid-program, and in degree of defensiveness on the first painting (all p < .05). External locus of control was associated at low levels with trait anxiety at mid-program and at the end, and with state anxiety at the end (all p < .05). Across the sample, trait anxiety was higher pre-program than at either the mid-point or the end (p < .05). State anger and state anxiety were substantially correlated (p < .01) on all three measurement occasions, although the range of the former measure was truncated due to floor effects. The results highlight the potential importance of the following factors: content and sequence of program components, nature of the relationship between instructor and students, and levels of state anger and state anxiety. Practical and research implications of the findings are discussed.

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