Anger is one of the primary risk factors for violent activity, both inside and outside of schools. Students who do not know how to manage their anger are at risk for various forms of aggression, ranging from verbal outbursts to physical violence. Anger management aims to give participants the tools they need to understand their anger and identify anger triggers. It also provides participants with management strategies that can help them reduce the chance that their anger will escalate into violence. These approaches may be taught in a variety of settings–for instance, in a class or as part of a counseling session. Courts often mandate anger management training as part of a criminal sentence or a diversion program. Most colleges and universities offer some type of anger management course, either on a voluntary basis through a counseling or student services center or as a for-credit course. Students who get in trouble on campus may be required to complete an anger management course either on campus or through a local provider.
In these programs participants are taught to take new perspectives, or to see things through the eyes of another. They are given instruction on identifying how they feel when they are angry, and then are taught specific techniques for problem solving. Many anger management programs include specific relation techniques as well. The instruction in such courses is done through lectures, discussion, videos, and role playing.
Studies have found some significant benefits of anger management. One study of anger management training for aggressive elementary school boys found that three years after completion of the program, attendees had increased self-esteem and were less likely to be involved in drugs and alcohol. There was no change in their delinquent behavior, however. Another study of 7- to 13-year-olds who received anger management training in a psychiatric ward found that the youth had significantly increased problem-solving skills one year later. A critical factor is the length of the program. Results are generally not significant for programs that are 6 lessons or shorter. Programs that are 12 sessions or longer, by comparison, have been shown to reduce aggressiveness. Long-term outcomes are increased when “booster sessions” are held one year later or at regular intervals.
Although courts often require domestic or dating violence offenders to complete anger management programs, research has not found that this approach is an effective way to address this specific problem. The failure of such court-mandated training is likely due to the fact that abuse is about offenders seeking to obtain and maintain power and control over victims, not about their inability to control their anger.
A number of anger management resources are available to assist educators in implementing a program. The Partnership Against Violence Network serves as a clearinghouse for information about anger management and other related topics. George Washington University’s Hamilton Fish Institute is another good source of information. The PBS series In the Mix has included an episode devoted to anger management. Lesson plans for educators at grade levels 9-12 are available at http://www.pbs.org/inthemix/educators/lessons/schoolviol3/index.html.
- Mayo Clinic. (2009, June 25). Anger management tips: 10 ways to tame your temper. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/anger-management/MH00102
- Safe and Responsive Schools Project. (2000). Anger management. Retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~safeschl/AngerManagement.pdf