- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
"Filling an important gap in the literature on childhood aggression, this book is a highly informative guide for readers involved in clinical assessment, diagnosis, and the development of treatment strategies. It provides definitive coverage of the nature and prevalence of this dysfunctional behavior, and the interplay among environmental, psychosocial, and biological risk factors and influences. In the classroom, this text will inform a new generation of students and clinicians of the importance of developmental psychopathology in the etiology of maladaptive aggression. I recommend it for students at many levels, including undergraduate and graduate students in psychology, behavioral neuroscience, and criminal justice; medical students and psychiatric residents; and law students concerned with crime, violence, and antisocial behavior."--Richard Melloni, Jr., PhD, Department of Psychology and Program in Behavioral Neuroscience, Northeastern University
"A remarkably informative book, highly readable and insightful for students in the behavioral sciences and professionals working with juveniles. The volume draws extensively from empirical knowledge in usually disparate fields, such as psychiatry, developmental psychology, and criminology. It provides comprehensive coverage of the important interface between research findings on biological and social factors, on the one hand, and effective assessment and intervention, on the other. I highly recommend it."--Rolf Loeber, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Department of Psychology, and School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh
"There are few topics of greater importance than this one, in view of the extraordinary social costs associated with aggression, and few books that have dealt with it with such sensitivity, breadth, and scope....This is scientific scholarship at its best."--from the Foreword by Russell A. Barkley, PhD, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Over the past 50 years, rates of maladaptive aggression and antisocial behaviors have increased in frequency and severity among children and adolescents in the United States. Although most youth are not seriously aggressive or antisocial, the rates of these behaviors are nevertheless alarming. The consequences of youth violence and related activities presently pose a major public health problem for society. The identification, containment, referral, assessment, and treatment of aggressive young people are challenges for many community institutions, including schools, juvenile justice authorities, and clinical mental health resources. After a peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s, rates of aggression and antisocial behaviors among young people are falling as the new century begins, but they remain at historically high levels.
This chapter discusses the prevalence of excessive, inappropriate aggressive behaviors in children and adolescents. Because some degree of aggression is generally very common and part of normal development, especially in young children, normal developmental aspects ofaggression are first discussed. A discussion of the prevalence of maladaptive aggression, antisocial behaviors, and suicide follows. This discussion first draws on community epidemiological data describing the prevalence of conduct disorder (CD), and then presents information from youth public opinion surveys ascertaining selfreported fears and concerns about aggression and violence. Juvenile justice statistics on rates of both victimization and offenses are next considered. Teenage suicide rates are then examined, since suicide can be viewed as the ultimate act of aggression against the self and since violent behavior increases the risk of suicide (Conner et al., 2001). Finally, how rates of juvenile aggression and suicide have affected referrals to clinical child and adolescent mental health treatment is discussed.
In Chapter 1, an attempt has been made to highlight the importance of careful definitions of aggression and to distinguish between adaptive and maladaptive aggression. This chapter defines the topic more broadly. Since little research using homogeneous definitions of aggression has been completed, by necessity this chapter mixes "aggression" with "violence," "delinquency," "crime," and "disruptive problem behavior."
ADAPTIVE AGGRESSION IN NORMAL CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT
Aggression is a normal and highly frequent behavior in young developing children. Healthy aspects of aggression facilitate competence in social assertiveness, competition in games, and success in meeting daily challenges. Infants can recognize facial configurations associated with the expression of anger in adults at 3 months of age (Izard et al., 1995). Almost all children display aggressive behavior to some degree during development. Across most cultures, boys are consistently found to be more aggressive than girls. The frequency of aggressive behavior in infants and young children has been examined by researchers studying social conflict. Observational studies (Holmberg, 1977) indicate that approximately 50% of the social interchanges between children 12-18 months of age in a nursery school setting can be viewed as disruptive or conflictual. By age 2 1/2 years, the proportion of conflicted social interchanges decreases to 20%. Almost all of the disruptive behavior in these children is directed toward peers, with very little directed toward adult caregivers. Early interpersonal conflicts serve as a training ground for infants to develop and learn effective social strategies for assertiveness, ownership of objects, and resolution of social conflict. These are important lessons for children to learn if they are to participate effectively in the greater social milieu as they grow older (Hay & Ross, 1982). As such, this type of aggression fits the definition of adaptive aggression.
The forms that aggressive behavior takes also change across development. There is a tendency for physical forms of aggression such as hitting to decrease, and verbally mediated forms of aggression to increase, between 2 and 4 years of age (Goodenough, 1931). In addition, the social purpose or goal of aggression seems to change with age. Children younger than 6 years engage in much aggressive behavior for the purpose of obtaining objects, territory, or privileges from others. This is called "instrumental" aggression (Rule, 1974). Slightly older children, aged 6-7 years, increasingly engage in person-oriented aggression ("hostile" aggression) designed as retaliation toward another child for presumed intentional frustration in a goal-directed activity, an insult, or other threats to one's self-esteem (Hartup, 1974). Over the preschool and early elementary school years, there appears to be a decrease in instrumental aggression and an increase in person-directed, hostile, retaliatory aggression (Parke & Slaby, 1983). At the same time, there is an overall decrease in the frequency and intensity of both kinds of aggression; verbally mediated interpersonal skills increase as children channel aggressive impulses and drives into more socially acceptable activities, such as sports, social, and academic achievement.
The precipitants or triggers of aggression also appear to change with development. Anger outbursts in infancy are usually elicited by physical discomfort or the need for attention, whereas "habit training" in toileting, hygiene, and feeding commonly causes outbursts in toddlers (Goodenough, 1931). Conflicts among peers over the possession of objects are also common from 18 to 65 months of age (Dawe, 1934; Hartup, 1974). As children grow older, insults and negative social comparisons (e.g., ridicule, tattling, criticism) become increasingly likely to elicit verbally mediated retaliatory aggression, but relatively unlikely to elicit physical attack (Parke & Slaby, 1983). As development proceeds into adolescence and young adulthood, overt aggression, defined as open confrontation with the environment (e.g., temper tantrums, physical fighting) tends to decline; covert or hidden aggression (e.g., breaking the rules, not telling the truth, cheating, stealing) becomes more common (Loeber, 1990). In adolescence, with the onset of sexual maturity, conflicts to establish or maintain social dominance may be important, especially for males.
Table 2.1 shows these general trends in the developmental aspects of normative aggression. Although hardly scientific, specific, or precise, these broad trends in development can help us begin to recognize which children may be at risk for developing more maladaptive forms of aggression. For example, the preschool child who largely directs aggression toward adults in an out-of-home environment such as a nursery school does not fit what is presently known about the normative aspects of aggression. The school-age child who frequently and repetitively initiates physical attacks on others, rather than beginning to modulate overt aggressive behavior with words, may also be deviating from a normative developmental trajectory. The elementary school child who continues to use physical aggression to obtain possessions from others is another example. These children may be at risk for the development of maladaptive aggression as they grow older. Knowledge about the normative developmental aspects of childhood aggression can help parents, teachers, and health care providers identify children who might benefit from further evaluation of their aggression at a young age, when treatment for maladaptive behavior may be more effective than later in development (Loeber & Hay, 1997).
PREVALENCE OF MALADAPTIVE AGGRESSION IN COMMUNITY SAMPLES
Since the psychiatric diagnosis of CD contains criteria for many varied acts of maladaptive aggression, prevalence surveys of CD can give a rough estimate of the prevalence of maladaptive aggression among youth living in the community in different countries. As noted in Chapter 1, CD is a disturbance of behavior lasting at least 6 months in which basic rights of others and/or major age-appropriate norms and rules of society are repeatedly violated (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1994). Overt physical aggression, such as fighting and fighting with weapons, occurs commonly in this condition. Covert, hidden forms of aggression, such as stealing, fire setting, lying, and vandalism, are also frequent among youth meeting diagnostic criteria for this diagnosis. Seven of the 15 criteria used to make the diagnosis of CD in its current form (APA, 1994) code for various aspects of physical aggression. Standardization of the diagnostic criteria for CD has enabled epidemiological studies to determine the prevalence of this diagnosis in different societies.
A summary of these community-based studies is presented in Table 2.2. As can be seen, prevalence rates vary by sampling time frame and range from 0.9% to 20%, with the higher prevalence rates generally reflecting longer sampling times. These rates suggest that maladaptive aggression as ascertained by a diagnosis of CD is not rare among the youth of many different countries. In general, this disorder is less prevalent in prepubertal children than in adolescents. Boys have higher prevalence rates than girls in the prepubertal age range; however, the rate of CD rises for female adolescents and can approach the prevalence for males in the adolescent age range (Kashani et al., 1987). The peak ages for CD-like behavior in boys are 10-13 years. For girls, such behavior peaks at age 16 (Bauermeister, Canino, & Bird, 1994). These findings suggest sex-related differences in the prevalence rates of aggressive behavior that vary as a function of age. Thus, both age and gender are important factors to consider in documenting community prevalence rates for children and adolescents with CD.
Youth Attitudes, Fears, and Concerns about Violence
Public opinion surveys suggest that for many adolescents, issues of aggression, violence, and safety in their schools and neighborhoods are matters of daily concern. A survey of teenagers' attitudes completed in 1996 included a question about the most important problem facing the United States today and in the future; responses revealed that the issue most frequently endorsed by adolescents was "violence and crime." Adolescents also endorsed "violence and crime" as the third most important issue today facing America's youth (after "drugs" and "peer pressure") (Maguire & Pastore, 1997, p. 115). The percentage of high school seniors who reported worrying "sometimes or often" about violence and crime rose from 79.4% in 1986 to 90.1% in 1996, before falling slightly to 84.4% in 1998 (Maguire & Pastore, 1999, p. 148). Many adolescents also report safety concerns in their activities of everyday life. In 1995, 42% of teenagers reported feeling "only sometimes" or "never" safe in the area around school, and 28% reported safety concerns while inside their school building. Although 61% of teenagers reported never feeling unsafe in any situation, 28% reported avoiding at least one public place because of safety concerns (Young Women's Christian Association [YWCA], 1996). Public opinion surveys assessing youth attitudes therefore indicate that many teenagers have fears and concerns about violence and aggression.
JUVENILE JUSTICE STUDIES AND STATISTICS
Among other sources of information on prevalence rates of maladaptive aggression for children and adolescents living in the community are criminal justice statistics, particularly annual crime indices. The federal government keeps statistics on certain offenses called "index offenses." These offenses consist of the following eight felonies: willful homicide, forcible rape, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, larceny over $50, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The Federal Bureau of Investigation combines statistics on these eight felonies into its annual "crime index." (Note that this index does not include drug-related offenses.) These offenses are much more serious crimes than the general idea of delinquency denotes.
Since the annual crime index includes statistics on the ages of crime victims and offenders, statistics on juvenile crime may be ascertained. Rates of youth victimization; youth offending for delinquency; youth offending for violent crime, such as murder, non-negligent manslaughter, and aggravated assault; and arrest rates in individuals under age 18 can be identified. These statistics have been kept for many years, and rates of change over time can be studied. Since only those offenses or events that come to the attention of authorities or result in the arrest of a perpetrator are counted in these statistics, they probably represent underestimations of the true offense and victimization prevalence rates for youth. This may be more true for less serious delinquent offenses and less true for more serious criminal offenses.
Self-Report Delinquency Methodology
The problem of underdetection of youth crime and delinquency as a result of relying on official arrest statistics has led to alternative methods of detecting child and adolescent offenses. One such method is "self-report delinquency methodology" (Loeber, Green, Lahey, & Stouthamer-Loeber, 1991). Instead of relying on official statistics, investigators ask youngsters, their parents, and their teachers directly about the youth's problem behaviors. Self-report studies usually aim to record nonpersonal crimes, victimless acts of delinquency, and covert acts of aggression, which official crime statistics often underestimate. The procedure followed in such research is to give respondents a standard list of specified delinquent activities. These can be presented as interview questions or as a self-report questionnaire. Often the information gathered from multiple informants (youngsters, parents, and teachers) is combined into a best-estimate evaluation (Hart, Lahey, Loeber, & Hanson, 1994). Evidence of validity for such an approach to estimating rates of antisocial behaviors among teenagers has emerged (Hart et al., 1994; Junger-Tas, 1992).
Self-report delinquency methodology is largely used with psychiatrically referred children and adolescents. Thus it cannot directly provide population-wide estimates of antisocial behavior prevalence rates. However, these methods represent a systematic approach to ascertaining the frequency of such events that are not covered by official crime indices. Findings on the nature of adolescent crime from self-report studies indicate that self-report data generally portray less serious offending overall, with the majority of undetected offending by young people being theft-related. Self-report studies suggest higher levels of delinquency among the juvenile population than would be anticipated on the basis of official statistics.
Excerpted from Aggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and Adolescents by Daniel F. Connor Copyright © 2002 by The Guilford Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.