Adult Attachment and Relational Aggression

We are in the process of planning a couple of studies exploring the possible relationship between adult attachment style and relational aggression. Attachment has been linked to overt physical and verbal aggression in a number of studies, including some focused on intimate partner violence. Moreover, there is some indication that parental attachment may be relevant in relational aggression among children and early adolescents (Michiels, Grietens, Onghena, & Kuppens, 2008). It makes sense that attachment might also be associated with relationally aggressive behaviors in the peer and romantic relationships of older adolescents and adults. Initially, we will be examining attachment in the context of a study focusing on different aspects of parenting in relational aggression among college students.

An additional next step we hope to tackle involves determining whether the predicted relationships between adult attachment and relational aggression persist independent of one's global personality traits (i.e., the "Big Five" personality factors). Another involves examining some of the variables which we suspect may moderate the relationship between attachment and relational aggression (e.g., anger, perceived social support, etc.).

Parenting and Relational Aggression

Caitlin Clark, a first year master's student working in the lab, just received IRB approval for a study of parenting and relational aggression among college students. The study involves an exploratory investigation to determine whether the parenting style used by participants' parents during their childhood years is meaningfully related to different forms of relational aggression and victimization in early adulthood. Caitlin plans to begin data collection soon.

Kate Defends Dissertation on Regional Differences in Relational Aggression

Kate Czar successfully defended her dissertation yesterday. Her study, Regional Differences in Relational Aggression: The Role of Culture, compared college students from two regions of the U.S. (one northern and one southern) on relational aggression, gender role attitudes, and normative beliefs about aggression. Southern participants were more likely to report engaging in relationally aggressive behaviors and endorsed more traditional gender roles than did northern participants. Apart from the regional differences, gender role attitudes were associated with relational aggression in that participants holding more traditional gender role attitudes were more likely to report behaving in relationally aggressive ways. Independent of physical aggressiveness, gender role attitudes predicted relational aggression among women.

Congratulations to Kate on an excellent defense!

Relational Aggression in Students' Dating Relationships

A paper we submitted based on Emily Prather's thesis has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. The citation is:

Prather, E., Dahlen, E. R., Nicholson, B. C., & Bullock-Yowell, E. (in press). Relational aggression in college students’ dating relationships. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma.

Emily is an advanced doctoral student working in the lab. She is currently developing her dissertation proposal.

Anger Management Content Training Successful

On Friday, I held a training session for students in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Southern Mississippi interested in learning to provide evidence-based anger management services. This was the first training I had offered since completing certification with the National Anger Management Association and revising my materials to be consistent with their standards. It went well, and it looks like we've got a few who are interested in pursuing certification too.

In order for those who are interested and attended on Friday to apply for certification as an Anger Management Specialist I, they will need to complete the required supervision component. I plan to work on setting this up for the students who are enrolled in practicum first, as they may begin working with angry clients right away.

We're planning to begin offering anger management classes through the Community Counseling and Assessment Clinic too, as soon as I finish writing the treatment protocol.

Kate's Dissertation Defense Set for October

Kate Czar has scheduled her dissertation defense for October 19th. Her dissertation, Regional Differences in Relational Aggression: The Role of Culture, compared college undergraduates from two universities (one located in Pennsylvania and one in Mississippi) on measures of aggression, gender role attitudes, and normative beliefs about aggression.

Southern participants reported more general/peer and romantic relational aggression and more traditional gender role attitudes than did Northern participants. Gender role attitudes were associated with relational aggression in that more traditional gender roles were positively correlated with relational aggression. Beliefs about the acceptability of relational aggression did not differ by region.

Lab Alum to Write for Psychology Today Blog

Dr. Ryan Martin
Dr. Ryan Martin, a former student who is now an Associate Professor of Human Development and Psychology at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, was recently invited to write a blog for Psychology Today.

Dr. Martin has been writing his own blog focused on anger, All the Rage, since October of 2010. Now his content will receive a much wider audience. Congratulations to Dr. Martin!

Anger Management Training for Counseling Psychology Students

I am in the process of finalizing training materials based on a curriculum approved by the National Anger Management Association (NAMA). I plan to hold a training for students in the Counseling Psychology Program at the University of Southern Mississippi early in the Fall semester. This training is designed to satisfy the content portion of the requirements for certification by NAMA as an Anger Management Specialist I.

I hope to offer these trainings to a wider audience at some point; however, they will be limited to current students for the time being.

Lab Accepting Applications From Incoming Masters Students

The lab is currently accepting applications from masters students who will be joining the Counseling Psychology Program at the University of Southern Mississippi in the Fall. Incoming masters students interested in anger, aggression, and traffic psychology are encouraged to complete an application.

Projects likely to begin in the Fall include:
  • Help seeking for anger problems among college students
  • Anger and alcohol abuse
  • Developing a brief screening and early intervention program for college students at risk of developing anger-related problems
  • Cultural factors in relational aggression
  • Developing improved measures of aggressive driving
Of course, we are always interested in students' ideas and welcome projects in other areas, as long as they are generally relevant to our work.

Help Seeking for Anger Problems

David Boudreaux, a first year doctoral student working in the lab, proposed his master's thesis today. David's thesis is titled Help Seeking for Anger Problems Among College Students.

Help Seeking for Anger Problems Among College Students

In spite of the importance of client motivation being widely recognized in the anger management literature, there have been surprisingly few studies examining motivation and readiness to change. Part of the problem is that we lack psychometrically sound instruments for assessing these constructs in the context of anger. David's thesis involves the development and initial validation of a new self-report scale designed to assess attitudes and intentions toward seeking anger management services.

Kate Czar Wins Shafer Scholarship

Kate Czar, an advanced doctoral student working in the lab, received the Bill Shafer Scholarship this year. This competitive award is given to one doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology Program each year for making an outstanding contribution to Student Counseling Services, our university counseling center. Congratulations Kate!

Kate will be moving to San Marcos, TX, this summer to begin her
predoctoral internship at the Texas State University - San Marcos Counseling Center.

Christy and Matt Complete Comprehensive Exam

Congratulations to Christy Dyess and Matt Rauch on passing their master's comprehensive exam! Christy and Matt are master's students who have been working in the lab on a number of ongoing projects. They will be leaving us at the end of the semester to complete the final portion of their programs, a full-time summer internship.

Great job on comps and good luck on the National Counselor Examination you two!

NAMA Certification Complete

Receiving Distinguished Diplomate status from the National Anger Management Association (NAMA) allowed me to apply for certification as an Anger Management Specialist V. Based on NAMA’s review of my application and training materials, I have just been informed that I have received this certification. This allows me to train and supervise mental health professionals interested in pursuing NAMA certification.

I think this will be good for the Lab for a few reasons. First, competence in providing anger management services is a highly marketable skill for students entering the job market. A credential, while not yet necessary to provide services in many areas, communicates a level of training that many employers will take seriously. Second, once the NAMA authorized training program is up and running, credentialing will become much more affordable to graduate students working in the Lab. And third, such a training program may help with student and client recruitment.

Dr. Dahlen Receives Distinguished Diplomate Status From NAMA

I was recently honored to receive Distinguished Diplomate membership in the National Anger Management Association (NAMA) following board review.

NAMA is a non-profit professional organization working to advance anger management services and build community among those involved in the study and treatment of anger. Their mission includes improving the quality of anger management services available to the public, supporting mental health professionals who provide these services, and facilitating research on anger. NAMA provides leadership at the national level through their certification program, specialist directory, and research support.

I look forward to working with NAMA to promote the science and practice of anger management.

What is Relational Aggression?

relational aggression
Relational aggression refers to a set of behaviors through which the aggressor harms others by adversely affecting their social relationships, reputation, and/or feelings of inclusion or belonging (Crick et al., 1999; Linder, Crick, & Collins, 2002). Common examples include spreading malicious rumors and gossip, social exclusion, and public embarrassment.

Psychologists have been studying relational aggression since the mid-1990s, and it has long been recognized as a problem by many parents of school-aged children. However, it took the 2004 film Mean Girls to bring relational aggression to the attention of the larger public. Since then, the costs of relational aggression among children and early adolescents have become increasingly clear. Victims are more likely to suffer from a variety of psychological problems, including anxiety and depression; both victims and aggressors are more likely to misuse substances and engage in a number of delinquent behaviors (Archer & Coyne, 2005; Sullivan, Farrell, & Kliewer, 2006).

Surprisingly little is known about relational aggression among older adolescents and adults, but this is slowly starting to change. Research is underway to investigate the nature of relationally aggressive behaviors among college students. One of the interesting findings to emerge so far is that the gender difference observed among children and younger adolescents (i.e., relational aggression is more common among girls) does not appear to be present.

Lab Member Heading to Texas State University - San Marcos for Internship

Congratulations to Kate Czar, an advanced doctoral student working in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab, who learned today that she matched successfully in the predoctoral internship match process.

Kate has been interested in working at a university counseling center for some time, and she is excited to have a position at her top choice: the
Texas State University - San Marcos Counseling Center. We’re proud of you, Kate!

Lab's Work Noticed by the Wall Street Journal

Our work at the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab was noted by The Wall Street Journal in an article published today about “sidewalk rage.” I was one of several anger researchers interviewed for the story, and the author did an impressive job of capturing the current state of the research on this form of aggression.

“Sidewalk rage” is a relatively new term being used to describe aggressive behavior between pedestrians, but it is already starting to generate interest in major cities. According to the article, a measure of pedestrian aggressiveness has been developed, and this should facilitate additional research. It will be interesting to see how pedestrian aggressiveness compares to aggressive driving. I expect the processes underlying both conditions to be similar; however, I would not be surprised to find some important differences as well. For example, I suspect that impatience may play a bigger role in aggression among pedestrians than it does among drivers.

Preventing Problem Anger

The psychological literature supports the efficacy of brief cognitive-behavioral treatments for individuals with clinically dysfunctional anger who are receptive to treatment. Delivered individually or in the form of group therapy, these treatment protocols generally consist of 8-15 weekly sessions. Support for preventive approaches is less clear, and this is unfortunate because considerable harm could be prevented by addressing anger-related concerns earlier.

At the
Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab, we are working on a number of projects designed to inform the development and evaluation of such prevention programs. One of the first gaps in the literature we must address is the lack of appropriate measures for assessing attitudes and intentions around seeking professional help for anger-related concerns. We hope that by developing such measures, we can inform research and practice involving persons who may be at risk for developing problem anger but who have not yet sought assistance. In addition, we are starting work to develop a brief screening and intervention program for college students across the range of anger-related issues. Focusing on increasing awareness of the role anger plays in one’s life and helping students overcome obstacles to treatment, we hope to increase the utilization of early intervention strategies to minimize harm.

Managing Anger During the Super Bowl

Super Bowl XLV
If you have ever been to a Super Bowl party during a year when you were not particularly invested in the outcome of the game, you may have had the experience of watching people watch the game. That can sometimes me even more entertaining than the game itself. We have all seen someone overcome with anger when their team makes a mistake or a call does not go their way.

Just in time for Super Bowl XLV, Dr. Martin at All the Rage brings us some useful information on anger in the context of sports. In his article, “The Inciting World of Sports,” Dr. Martin tackles the question of why those of us who watch football and other sports sometimes get so angry that we may do stupid things.

As you might expect, Dr. Martin suggests that the propensity to anger in a sports context can be explained by many of the same psychological processes associated with anger in other contexts (e.g., tension, perceived unfairness). He also explores some that seem unique to sports viewership (e.g., the joy of “smack talk” when one’s team performs well).

Best of all, Dr. Martin offers concrete suggestions to help people cope when emotions run high during the big game. If you are planning to watch the Super Bowl this year and think you might benefit from a cooler-headed approach, you are likely to find something helpful in this article.