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Factors that facilitate and hinder the constructive use of anger as areported by mothers of preschool children Medic, Maria Bozica


The intent of this study is to explore what facilitates and hinder the constructive use of anger in the normative and generally positive mother-child relationship. Eleven mothers of preschoolers were interviewed. Flanagan’s (1954) critical incidents interview was used to elicit 46 usable incidents describing anger experiences. Analysis of these incidents revealed four factors that facilitate the constructive use of anger: (a) responsive self-awareness, (b) empathy, (c) separation, and (d) relief. The incidents revealed furthermore that there were four basic response and resolution patterns to anger: (a) a constructive response and resolution, (b) a coercive response and resolution, (c) a constructive response with a coercive resolution, and (d) a coercive response and resolution. Combining the facilitating factors and response styles produce eight differential plots which describe how anger was resolved once it was aroused. The story plots were found to be reliable. Participants also responded to 13 questions that arose from a preliminary literature review. The responses to these questions were summarized in seven primary themes: (a) anger is a part of the parenting relationship; (b) self-awareness of our own anger helps us manage more constructively; (c) outside factors such as fatigue, time constraint, repetition, competing demands, and noncompliance can affect anger arousal and its prolongation; (d) having a support network enables us to put our experience in perspective and be more accepting of our own experiences; (e) books, videos, and parenting courses are among the most influential sources in helping parents to deal with anger constructively; (f) children need to see and learn how to handle anger; and (g) anger needs to be accompanied with an explanation and a resolution. These themes represent the contextual thinking and actions that facilitate the constructive use of anger between a mother and her preschool child.

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