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New Perspectives on Aggression Replacement Training Practice, Research, and Application
John Wiley & Sons Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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Chapter One AGGRESSION REPLACEMENT TRAINING: THE COGNITIVE-BEHAVIORAL CONTEXT
Clive R. Hollin Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, UK
Developed in the 1980s, the first complete publication of Aggression Replacement Training (ART) in 1987, by Arnold Goldstein and Barry Glick, saw the formulation of a multimodal approach to working with aggressive offenders. Utilized on an increasingly wide basis throughout the 1990s, the accumulated outcome evidence shows that ART is an effective method by which to reduce aggressive behavior (Goldstein & Glick, 1996). The latest text offering a revised edition of the program (Goldstein, Glick, & Gibbs, 1998) details and refines the three components that make up ART: these three components, delivered sequentially, are Skillstreaming, Anger Control Training, and Moral Reasoning Training.
Skillstreaming involves the teaching of skills that serve to displace the out-of-control destructive behaviors with constructive, prosocial behavior. The skills element of ART teaches constructive social skills in terms of step-by-step instructions to managing key social situations. In keeping with the principles of skills training, theskills are modeled by group leaders and then practiced by offenders. ART addresses a "core" set of social skills relevant to the target group in order to bring about change.
Anger Control Training follows the established sequence of establishing Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (A-B-C) sequences to determine triggers for anger. ART then uses the standard anger management techniques of enhancing self-awareness of internal angry cues, teaching coping strategies, skills training, self-instruction, and social problem solving.
Moral Reasoning Training seeks to address issues concerned with a delay in maturing of moral reasoning and the associated egocentric bias. Thus, this part of the program seeks to enhance offenders' moral reasoning skills and widen their social perspective taking. These aims are achieved through self-instruction training, social problem solving, skills training, and guided peer group social decisionmaking meetings.
The aim of this chapter is principally to describe the theoretical underpinnings for ART, then to consider the evidence that speaks to this theoretical base. In looking to theory, there are two dimensions to discuss: first, the broad theoretical position adopted by ART, and, second, the specific theoretical rationale for the three components.
ART: BROAD THEORY
This section develops the theme of cognitive-behavioral theory as the bedrock theory on which ART is built. To achieve this aim, an overview of the broad extent of cognitive-behavioral theory is presented. The theme will be developed by suggesting that a cognitive-behavioral approach is one that seeks to locate behavior within a social context, with an emphasis on the reciprocity between the social context and an individual's functioning. The dovetailing of ART and these theoretical principles will then become clear.
There is no doubt that ART has its theoretical base in learning theory: "Aggression is primarily learned behavior, learned by observation, imitation, direct experience, and rehearsal" (Goldstein et al., 1998, p. 3). In its initial formulation as a theory of learning, traditional behavioral theory concentrated on the relationship between the environment and observable behavior (Skinner, 1974). The theoretical position articulated by Skinner was that given the right setting conditions or antecedents (A), then behavior (B) develops through the individual's experience of the rewarding or punishing consequences (C) delivered by the environment following their actions. In an A-B-C model, the consequences may be rewarding, in which case they increase the frequency, or reinforce the behavior; or aversive, in which case they may decrease, or punish the frequency of the behavior. This deceptively simple model of behavior was applied to the explanation of criminal behavior in the form of Differential Reinforcement Theory (Jeffery, 1965). The use of A-B-C sequences to explain the development of extreme violence is seen in Gresswell and Hollin's (1992) case study of attempted multiple murder.
The advent of social learning theory added to the picture by incorporating more explicitly the role of cognition and emotion into a theoretical account of human aggression specifically (Bandura, 1973) and human functioning generally (Bandura, 1977, 1986). Social learning theory departed from the traditional behavioral position in that, while continuing to acknowledge the role of external reinforcement, it suggests that learning can also take place purely at a cognitive level. Further, Bandura also advanced the concept of "motivation" to supersede reinforcement as the force that develops and maintains behavior. In social learning theory terms, motivation is held to take three forms: external reinforcement in the traditional sense that the term is used in behavioral theory; vicarious reinforcement, where an individual's actions are based on observing what happens to other people who behave in a particular way; and actions that produce self-reinforcement, as in a sense of personal pride or achievement.
While social learning theory retains some degree of overlap with behavior analysis, theorists have increasingly turned their attention to the study of cognition. As social learning theory precipitated interest in the role of cognition within an overarching behavioral framework, the term cognitive-behavioral entered popular usage. Thus, cognitive-behavioral theory increasingly became a focus for a range of researchers, and cognitive-behavioral interventions became a focus for practitioners.
With its mixed heritage, from the standpoint of both research and practice, it is difficult if not impossible to give a watertight definition of cognitive-behavioral theory or practice. Kendall and Bacon (1988) have previously noted the problems with attempts to define cognitive-behavioral therapy and to say precisely how it sits alongside traditional behavioral theory and practice. Indeed, Kendall and Bacon suggest that it is preferable to see a cognitive-behavioral approach to practice as a general perspective rather than a single unified theory. It is clear that models of human behavior based on learning have become increasingly complex.
This theoretical complexity is seen in the behavioral model of violent conduct developed by Nietzel, Hasemann, and Lynam (1999). This model is based on four sequential stages across the life span (Figure 1.1). At the first stage, there are distal antecedents to violence: Nietzel et al. suggest that these are biological precursors, including genetic transmission and ANS lability, psychological predispositions including impulsivity and deficient problem solving, and environmental factors, such as family functioning and the social fabric of the neighborhood. At the second stage, there are early indicators of violence as the child develops. These first signs include features of childhood such as conduct disorder and poor emotional regulation. Third, as the child matures the developmental processes associated with the intensification of violent behavior come into effect: these processes include school failure, association with delinquent peers, and substance abuse. Finally, as the adolescent moves into adulthood there is a stage at which maintenance variables come into force. These maintaining variables include continued reinforcement for violent conduct, association with criminal peers, and social conditions.
The type of model proposed by Nietzel et al. is an excellent example of the application of cognitive-behavioral principles. The model includes social factors, environmental forces, and cognitive processes, and is dynamic in speaking to progression and change over the life span.
It is evident that ART has its theoretical base in similar territory. Goldstein (1994) described three levels of analysis in the physical ecology of aggression, all incorporating various levels of a person-environment interaction. The macrolevel refers to analysis of violence at a national or regional level; at the mesolevel the analysis of violence is at the level of the neighborhood; and microlevel analysis is at the level of the home, street, public house, and so on.
The fundamental point to take from these complex models is that a cognitive-behavioral approach neither has an exclusive focus on the individual, nor does it neglect the possibilities of preventing violence through social and environmental means. However, for those charged with the responsibility of working with offenders, the focus of their day-to-day work lies with the individual. Reviews of the literature show that the history of working with offenders, including violent offenders, is dominated by a single-target approach (Hollin, 1990a). In other words, practice is dominated by trying to change one aspect of the offender's functioning, such as their social skills or educational achievement. In contrast and in keeping with the more complex models, contemporary practice is concerned with multimodal programs that seek to change several aspects of the offender's functioning. To its credit, ART was one of the first programs to adopt a multimodal perspective, seeking to change the individual's thinking, emotion, and action. As discussed in the following sections on each specific component of ART, the theoretical base for this tripartite approach is well established.
SPECIFIC THEORY: SKILLSTREAMING
The original social skills model (Argyle & Kendon, 1967) held that socially skilled behavior consists of three related components-social perception, social cognition, and social performance (Hollin & Trower, 1986c). Social perception refers to the ability to perceive and understand verbal and nonverbal social cues and signals; social cognition, in this sense, is analogous to social information processing; and social performance is, of course, observable social action. Thus, the socially competent individual will use all aspects of their social skills to function effectively in their interactions with others and so achieve their social goals.
The application of this way of thinking about social behavior with respect to offender populations raises two issues: first, is there any evidence to indicate that offenders have particular difficulties in any specific areas of social ability? Second, is an offender's level of social skills related to his or her offending?
The ability to recognize, understand, and interpret interpersonal cues is central to all social behavior (Argyle, 1983). In a study of social perception in delinquents, McCown, Johnson, and Austin (1986) showed that young offenders had some difficulty in recognizing the emotion expressed in different facial expressions. Similarly, a body of evidence has accumulated to suggest that young people who struggle socially, particularly with respect to aggressive behavior, have difficulties in both the selection and interpretation of social cues (e.g. Dodge, Murphy, & Buchsbaum, 1984; Dodge & Tomlin, 1987; Akhtar & Bradley, 1991). Further, a study by Lipton, McDonel, and McFall (1987) suggested that sexually aggressive men may misperceive social cues in male-female social interactions.
The misperception of social cues may in turn lead to misattribution of intent, so that the actions of other people are mistakenly seen as hostile or threatening (Slaby & Guerra, 1988; Lochman & Dodge, 1994; Crick & Dodge, 1996). The manner in which a social encounter is perceived will, in turn, influence the way in which the person deals with a given social encounter.
Following their perception and understanding of other people's behavior, the individual must decide on a suitable response. This type of decision making requires the ability to generate feasible courses of action, consider potential alternatives and their likely consequences, and make plans towards achieving the desired outcome (Spivack, Platt, & Shure, 1976). Several studies have suggested that some offenders, perhaps particularly younger offenders, may experience difficulties in solving social interaction problems. For example, studies using the Adolescent Problem Inventory have shown that male young offenders typically gave less socially competent responses than non-offenders to a series of social problems (Palmer & Hollin, 1996, 1999). Offenders typically use a more limited range of alternatives to solve interpersonal problems, and rely more on verbal and physical aggression. A similar pattern has been reported for female offenders using the Problem Inventory for Adolescent Girls (Gaffney & McFall, 1981; Ward & McFall, 1986).
It is clear that social cognition, including social problem solving, is related to offending behavior. There is a weight of research in the tradition illustrated above that strongly suggests that difficulties in setting social goals, solving social problems, and accurately perceiving social feedback on performance are critical factors in understanding antisocial, including aggressive, behavior (e.g. Ross & Fabiano, 1985; Hollin, 1990a, 1990b; Akhtar & Bradley, 1991; Demorest, 1992; Crick & Dodge, 1994).
In a typical study, Spence (1981a) compared the social performance skills of young male offenders with non-delinquent controls matched for age, academic performance, and social background. The delinquents showed significantly less eye contact and speech, but more "fiddling" and gross body movements, behaviors shown to relate to poor observer ratings of social skill (Spence, 1981b). On global ratings of social skill, social anxiety, and employability the delinquent group were rated less favorably than the non-delinquents.
In summary, the research suggests that some offenders do experience difficulties with social skills. However, it would be wrong to assume that this is a characteristic of all offenders: clearly offenders are a heterogeneous population with a wide distribution of social ability (Veneziano & Veneziano, 1988). Nonetheless, there are offenders with social difficulties and the hypothesis has been formed that there is a link between social ability and offending (e.g. Howells, 1986). If this hypothesis is true, in some cases at least, then remediation of these social difficulties, typically through the use of Social Skills Training (SST), may contribute to a reduction in offending.
SPECIFIC THEORY: ANGER CONTROL
A second strand in ART is enabling participants to control their anger. Anger is the emotional state most frequently associated with violent behavior (Blackburn, 1993).
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