The Untold Stories: Anger and Aggression among Youth
Farley, Tatjana M. (author)
McWey, Lenore M. (professor directing dissertation)
Stewart, Eric Allen (university representative)
Kimmes, Jonathan G. (Jonathan Gene) (committee member)
Ledermann, Thomas (committee member)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
College of Health and Human Sciences (degree granting college)
Department of Human Development and Family Science (degree granting department)
Difficulties with anger and aggression have been linked to serious youth outcomes with long-term effects including psychopathology and incarceration. In the United States, although the cost to incarcerate a youth varies by state, the national average is $407 per day or $148,767 per year. Youth involved in the juvenile justice system or foster care are more likely to have been exposed to one or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) than the general population. Involvement with juvenile justice, foster care, and exposure to ACEs are associated with higher rates of mental health and behavioral struggles, including anger and aggression. Studies of anger and aggression are often focused on anger or aggression in a particular context rather than anger or aggression as concepts and are primarily focused on adults. Additionally, studies of the effects of ACEs have centered primarily on adult mental health outcomes such as depression, anxiety, conduct problems and partner aggression. As such, there are important gaps in the literature in terms of understanding conceptual distinctions between anger and aggression of youth. This bolsters the necessity of studying the concepts of anger and aggression of youth without contextual qualifiers (e.g., in the context of youth sports), from their perspective with particular attention to the role juvenile justice and foster care involvement, or exposure to ACEs may play. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to understand the essence anger and aggression from youths' perspectives and compare narratives of youth with differing levels of risk. Using social constructionism and developmental trauma frameworks as guides, semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted to understand youths' experiences of anger and aggression. A phenomenological constructionist approach was used to gain an understanding of the essence of anger and aggression from youths' experiences. Additionally, demographic information was used to supplement the qualitative findings and a quantitative trauma risk measure was used to screen the level of risk for trauma and connection to the juvenile justice system or foster care youth have and make comparisons among the data. A sample of 27 youth was recruited for this study. Due to the diverse nature of youth who are involved in juvenile justice, foster care, and have experienced trauma or exposure to ACEs, this study sought to include a diverse sample of participants. Data analysis was conducted using thematic analysis. The study aimed to address the following research questions: How do youth experience anger? How do youth experience aggression? How do youth differentiate between anger and aggression? And do youth who are at-risk conceptualize or differentiate anger and aggression differently than youth who are not considered at-risk? Results indicated that most youth identified anger and aggression as separate concepts, with anger being more emotion-based and aggression being more action-based. Additionally, while there were many similarities in how youth who were not at-risk and who were "at-risk" defined and experienced anger and aggression, there were some major differences, especially in the ways aggression was understood and experienced. Understanding anger and aggression from the perspective of youth, while considering the role of involvement in juvenile justice, foster care, and exposure to ACEs in their conceptualization of these concepts, may help shape the development of appropriate assessments and treatments and address negative outcomes.
Aggression, Anger, Trauma, Youth
March 10, 2022.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Human Development and Family Science in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Lenore M. McWey, Professor Directing Dissertation; Eric Stewart, University Representative; Jonathan Kimmes, Committee Member; Thomas Ledermann, Committee Member.
Florida State University