Physical Aggression and Self-Injury in Juvenile Delinquent Nikki J. Deaver University of Nebraska-Lincoln Methods Participants: Participants were 43 youths.
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Physical Aggression and Self-Injury in Juvenile Delinquent Nikki J. Deaver University of Nebraska-Lincoln Methods Participants: Participants were 43 youths aged 9 to 17 with a mean age of 16.36. Each participant had a history of behavioral disorders and/or criminal activity and were placed into one of four homes/treatments located in a large Midwestern city by a family court. Each group home housed 6-12 youths and was staffed 24 hours a day with a supervisor and 3-5 counselors. Measures: This study used archival data collected from school, court, and treatment records. The Daily Adjustment Indicator (Burchard & Schaefer, 1992) is a 25-item survey that was used as a daily measure of data such as physical aggression and self- injury for the first six months of treatment in the group home. Months 1, 3, and 6 were selected to show successive score differences for the 6 month period. Prior criminal offenses was divided into yes (those who have committed one or more crimes) and no (those who have no prior offenses). Removal from treatment by judge was divided into kept (those who remained in treatment for its entirety) and removed (those who were kicked out by judge and sent to prison). Procedures: On a daily basis participants received scholastic tutoring and group therapy that focused on social skills, interpersonal decision making, and anger management. On a weekly basis each individual participant received therapy focusing on similar topics of the group therapy. The Daily Adjustment Indicator scores were collected and combined by the supervisor at the end of each month. Discussion The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of physical aggression and self-injury to prior criminal offenses, removal from treatment, and monthly scores. Previous research suggests that these two behaviors are commonly found together, however closer examination on adolescents may shed light on different treatment methods. The overall effect of prior offenses showed higher physical aggression scores for those without prior criminal offenses and showed no difference between the groups for self-injury. Physical aggression was found to increase overall when adolescents were removed from treatment and sent to prison, which shows that remaining in treatment until completion helps the individual. Removal or non-removal of treatment was significantly related to prior offenses and monthly scores in the 3-way interaction for physical aggression. For those with no prior criminal offenses who were kept in treatment physical aggression scores where lower than those removed from treatment for months 3 and 6, however, for those with prior criminal offenses who were kept in treatment physical aggression scores were higher than those removed from treatment for month 3. The results show physical aggression differs when taking into account other variables in relationship with monthly scores and removal from treatment. There were no score differences on successive months for those kept in therapy, and for those removed from treatment scores for month 3 were significantly higher than month 1, but also higher than month 6. Results show no significant 3-way relationship for the three variables in regards to self-injury. There was also no significant 2-ways or main effects involving these variables. There is a possibility that this was due to limitations of a clear and comprehensive definition of self-injury and also to the hidden nature of such behavior. There are several different types of self-injury some of which may not have been included in this study. These results bring up a question as to why physical aggression and self-injuring behavior did not appear similarly in relationship to the other three variables. Future research should use these results as a pilot to investigate any differences between these behaviors that contradict previous research. These results show there is a pattern on physical aggression and this effect is irrelevant to self-injuring behavior. This may be due to limitations in the study and overall, there are several improvements that might be made while considering future research. An increase in the sample size is needed to find more significant findings and increase the number of self-injurers. Future research should include all types of physically aggressive and self-injuring behavior and categorize different types in order to interpret a more detailed perspective. Also there should be a variety of different treatment methods used to also increase the specificity of certain options. It would also be helpful to examine other characteristics such as socialization in families and other deviant behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, truancy, in-school suspensions, theft, and verbal abuse. Toch and Adams (2002) suggest that those who are aggressive in nature tend to be unsocialized, and this lack of socialization, such as through parenting, creates defects in the mediating and expression of impulses leading to reactions of inappropriate behavior. Introduction Physical aggression and self-destruction are common behaviors found in youth, especially those who are delinquent. There are several components that can be factored into the source of such behavior, and each of these is different for each individual. This study explores the relationship of both physical aggression and self-destruction to three factors: prior criminal offenses, removal from treatment by judge, and scores across months in treatment. Physical aggression has been an important element in previous research on those in treatment and those in prison. In one such study, Ireland (2004) found that those in prison receiving therapy showed a significant improvement in physical aggression than did those who did not receive therapy. Aggressive behavior against others and toward the self are due to frustration, inability to express ideas, fear, and anxiety (Federn, 1989), and for delinquents the key impulse in dealing with these factors is through aggression (Toch & Adams, 2002). Self-injury has also been studied in the midst of treatment programs and in prisons. Just as previous research has found increases in physical aggression due to several factors, increases among self-injury are found in similar circumstances. Self-injuring behavior has been found to be associated with more reports of physical aggression towards other people and objects (Matsumoto, et al., 2005). Hillbrand (1993) suggests that self-injuring behavior is higher in correctional than in non-correctional psychiatric patients because prisoners use their behavior to manipulate correctional officers. Considering this previous research on physical aggression and self-injuring behavior, the purpose of this study was to examine their relationship to prior criminal activity, removal from treatment, and monthly scores in treatment. It was expected that those having committed prior criminal offenses and those being removed from treatment by a judge (sent to juvenile prison) would result in higher physical aggression and self-injury scores than for those with no prior criminal offenses and those who were kept in the residential treatment. Those who were kept in treatment were expected to show no increases in physical aggression and self-injury across months in treatment, while those removed from treatment were expected to show increases in both behaviors across monthly scores. Results Univariate statistics for variables collected in the survey are shown in Table 1. Mixed groups ANOVAs with follow-up analyses using the LSD procedure (p=.05) were used to examine the main effects and interactions of prior criminal offenses (yes vs. no), removal from treatment by judge (kept vs. removed), and monthly scores (Month 1 vs. 3 vs. 6) as they relate to physical aggression scores and as they relate to self-injury scores. Physical Aggression: Figure 1 shows physical aggression scores for each of the design conditions. There was a significant 3-way interaction, F(2,78)=6.001,p=.004, MSe=2.565. Examination of the cell means (using LSDmmd=1.381) reveals that the pattern of interaction was that those kept by judge for continuing treatment and with no prior criminal offenses and those with prior criminal offenses showed no differences in scores across months in treatment. The pattern of interaction for those removed from treatment by judge and with no prior criminal offenses showed increasing physical aggression scores from months 1-3, but decreasing scores from 3-6, and for those removed from treatment by judge with prior criminal offenses there was no physical aggression score difference from months 1-3, but increasing scores from 3-6. Those who were removed from treatment with no prior criminal offenses showed higher physical aggression for month 3 and month 6 than those with prior criminal offenses. There was a significant 2-way interaction of monthly physical aggression scores and removal from treatment, F(2,78)=3.529, p=.034 (r=.208). The pattern of interaction (using LSDmmd=.976) was that there was no score difference between those kept in treatment and those removed in month 1, however for months 3 and 6 those removed from treatment had higher physical aggression scores than those kept in treatment. For those who were kept in treatment there were no monthly score differences. For those who were removed from treatment scores were highest for months 3 and 6. This pattern of interaction is descriptive for each successive month among those with no prior criminal offenses who were kept in therapy, for months 3 vs. 6 in those with no prior offenses and removed from treatment, and finally for all months when comparing those with no prior criminal offenses who were kept in treatment vs. those removed from treatment. This pattern is also descriptive for those with prior criminal offenses and kept in therapy for each month comparison, but not for those removed from therapy. Self-Injury: Figure 2 shows self-injury scores for each of the design conditions. Analyses revealed there was not a significant 3-way interaction, F(2,78)=2,.874, p=.062, MSe=.316 (r=.189). There was no significant 2-way interaction of monthly self-injury scores and removal from treatment, F(2,78)=1.119, p=.332 (r=.119).