Teens Who Act Out Violently Need Proper Therapy Research Paper

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Teen Violence

Introduction / Group Population

Many verifiable studies reflect the fact that children that are aggressive at a very young age have a "high risk" of becoming involved in "chronic violent behavior" later in their lives (Herrenkohl, et al., 2003). This paper delves into that problem by conducting research into the available literature; and by reporting the various solutions scholars have come up with, including, importantly, interventions at various stages of a child's life.

Long-Term Effects

Clearly there are long-term impacts for young people who begin acting aggressively in their early years. Before delving into group interventions, the facts available vis-a-vis childhood aggression that in later years becomes violence and arrests are worthy to report.

In the peer-reviewed journal Social Work Research, the authors point to a study that reports on teachers' ratings of boys' aggressions between ages eight to ten; it turned out that those aggressive boys were later convicted for " ... assault and robbery" between ages 17 to 18 (Herrenkohl, 179). Another study (McCord / Ensminger, 1995) Herrenkohl referenced revealed that when teachers identified and rated specific physical acts of aggression by boys and girls in first grade it turned out that those individuals were arrested for violent crimes up to the age of 33. In this particular study, almost half of the aggressive boys that the teacher recorded as violent " ... were later arrested" (Herrenkohl, 179). However, only a third of the boys in that group that had no history of youthful aggressiveness were arrested.

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Still another study shows that when a child at age six is demonstrating aggressive behaviors, it predicts " ... self-reports of violence and serious delinquency during adolescence among boys" (Herrenkohl, 179). This is not to imply that all aggressive behaviors lead to violence albeit the literature does document ample sources that convey that message.

Research Paper on Teens Who Act Out Violently Need Proper Therapy Assignment

What are the explanations for the linkage between childhood aggression and later antisocial, violent behaviors? On page 180 the authors point to a study that shows " ... chronic patterns of antisocial behavior stem from neuro-psychological impairments that affect children's acquisition of skills and development of social competencies" (Herrenkohl). Hence, without skills to keep emotions under control, a child is prone to violence "across the life span." Another interesting theory is that an aggressive child may become "alienated" from peers that are peaceful and socially well adjusted, and afterwards that child can be "drawn into peer networks that support violence" (Herrenkohl, 180).

What the authors assert on page 180 is certainly pertinent to this paper, and that is, children with high IQ or with a "resilient temperament" are likely to reduce the possibility that they will "encounter early risk factors" (Herrenkohl). Also antisocial behavior can be minimized if there are "strong bonds" with schools, parents, religious institutions or other non-familial adults or peers (Herrenkohl, 180).

Interventions -- Group Therapy -- Questioning the Value of Group Therapy

Not every researcher or psychologist dealing with teen violence agrees that group therapy sessions are a positive answer to troubled adolescents. In the book Deviant Peer Influences in Programs for Youth: Problems and Solutions, Dr. Kenneth Dodge and colleagues posit that placing violence adolescents in group therapy sessions is a mistake. It is one of the most "robust findings" in the literature on juvenile delinquency that "exposure to deviant peers" is linked to antisocial behaviors including drug use and "violent offenses" (Dodge, et al., 2007). Placing troubled teens together in therapy groups (and in juvenile justice facilities and alternative schools) may be financially and logistically practical, however, Dodge writes (4) that putting them together means " ... their identity and common ground become deviance."

A potential consequence of bringing them together in a group therapy session may " ... exacerbate rather than diminish their problem behavior" (Dodge, 4). While agreeing that "most therapies have a generally positive" impact on children, therapies in a group setting (involving "all-deviant groups") have " ... less positive effects than groups that include a high proportion of well-adjusted children" (Dodge, 8). In a meta-analytic review of " ... more than 500 crime prevention programs" and those interventions involving at-risk and violent youth that were successful were those that "treated youth individually and were aimed at family interactions" (Dodge, 11). Peer-group counseling / therapy " ... failed to reduce ... delinquency, and in some cases increased delinquency" (Dodge, 11).

Interventions -- Group Therapy is Effective

Taking issue with Dodge -- in fact, showing diametrically opposite results from Dodge's assertions -- is a white paper produced by the American Group Psychotherapy Association (Aronson, et al., 2004). The research explains that for an adolescent traumatized by violence, without group therapy the withdrawn traumatized adolescent " ... would not only be dealing with the effects of the trauma, but also with an additional secondary effect of disconnection from peers," which will, according to Aronson, arrest the "developmental advance" (Aronson, 95).

Group therapy offers a sense of "relief from that isolation and reestablishes connections with peers" because everyone in the group becomes closely identified with each other member; the group because "the mother group" -- a transitional object allowing the adolescent to proceed along normal development paths (Aronson, 96). Within the group dynamics, Aronson suggests there must be: a) a sense of safety for traumatized individuals; b) safety is created by creating a "highly structured method of revealing each person's trauma story" (reading journals, showing photos or drawings); c) reduce the feeling of isolation (98).

The group leader must adopt an "active therapeutic stance" and "speak plainly and authentically avoiding "the use of jargon" because jargon will indicate to the adolescents that this is "another adult who does not 'get' where the adolescent is coming from (Aronson, 99).

Intervention -- The Step Up Intervention in Minnesota

The Step Up program, a curriculum for teens that play out violence at home, is a program that includes group therapy using a cognitive behavioral approach and attempts to teach "respectful ways of communicating and solving conflict with family members" (Routt, et al., 2004). The curriculum involves parents who are in attendance at the beginning of every group session, and there are 21 sessions in this intervention program. Why include parents? Routt explains that parents are "better able to support" the efforts of their teen's changing behaviors if they are deeply involved in the learning process; plus, parents also learn skills.

The first sessions in the Step Up program are preceded by interviews with teens and parents separately (assessment interviews). The initial areas of concern in the group sessions are those that zero in on "accountability for abusive and violent behavior"; next, there are "learning skills" that can prevent violent behaviors; and thirdly teens are shown how to "resolve conflict in respectful ways" (Routt, 4). On occasion teens will resist cooperating fully with the group leader; in those instances, Routt suggests offering rewards for cooperative behaviors (pizza can motivate teens), and turning the group therapy session into a game "makes the activity more lively"; for example, points can be given for each answer that is candid and responds to the group exercises and rewards are given for the most points (5).

Interventions -- a Best Therapy for Dating Violence

Dating violence is a universal problem but the authors of a peer-reviewed article in the Maternal and Child Health Journal assert that African-American adolescents are particularly at risk for dating violence. The authors conducted what they call "focus groups" with 32 African-Americans ages 13 to 24. There were four group sessions, and from those sessions researchers learned when these youth feel safe, what the terms they use actually meant, and what priorities are needed in terms of developing violence-preventing interventions. Hence, these sessions were not psychological therapeutic events; they were group screening sessions to determine what interventions would be appropriate for black young people impacted by dating violence (Martin, et al., 2012).

The research was conducted because good solid empirical research "is lacking in how to best broach the topic of dating violence with adolescents"; and moreover, the focus groups were needed in order to "understand their preferences for seeking help for such abuse" (Martin, 958). Typically survivors of dating violence turn to "informal sources of support" (friends, peers, family) and not formal sources; so, there is a need to understand under what circumstances youthful African-Americans (and other youth) will turn to formal sources to get help after they have endured violence.

Four groups were set up, semi-structured, to dig into the language teens use to describe their experiences, and to learn about their preferences for "help-seeking" as well as their insights into what elements would be desirable for a " ... hypothetical teen dating violence resource center" (Martin, 959). Five to nine teens were in each group and were stratified by age (13-16 and 15-24 years of age). All participants were African-American recruited from community organizations and outreach programs that were connected to "an urban adolescent health center" (Martin, 959).

The focus groups lasted 45-60 minutes and were audio-taped; they were conducted in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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