Adult Aggressive Behavior Reduced by Youth Intervention

aggressive behaviorResearch has suggested an educational intervention program for children between kindergarten and 10th grade can reduce aggressive behavior in later life.[1] The program, Fast Track, teaches children the social cognitive skills necessary to decrease aggression, such as emotional regulation and social problem solving.1 Previous studies have also suggested that these skills can also lead to decreased antisocial behavior; however, it was unclear whether the program’s skills would carry over into the children’s adult years.1

Therefore, Carré and colleagues conducted a study to see if the program would have long-term effects, as it would, in theory, be linked to specific biological mechanism: alterations in testosterone reactivity to social provocation.1 Decreased testosterone levels in response to social threats would account for Fast Track’s success in reducing aggression.1

To test this, the researchers recruited 63 participants from Fast Track schools in Durham, North Carolina.1 For the study’s demographic similarity, all of the participants were African American men of the approximate age of 26.1 Half of them were involved in the Fast Track program from five to 17, which included tutoring, peer coaching, home and family visits, and social-emotional learning with friends.1 The other half had attended the same schools but were not a part of the Fast Track program.1

Eight years after the intervention ended, researchers brought the participants in to play a game, of which the goal was to earn as much money as possibly by pressing three buttons: one that accrued money, one that prevented money from being stolen, and one that stole money from an opponent.1 The participants believed they were playing against an actual opponent, but they were not—the game was determined by a computer program, and the imaginary opponent would provoke participants by stealing their money.1

Results found that the participants who completed the Fast Track program were less aggressive towards their opponent, as they opted to steal less money from their opponent than did participants who did not complete the Fast Track program.1 The participants who were not involved in Fast Track showed an increased level of testosterone after their money was stolen, while Fast Track participants did not.1

“Interestingly, there were no differences between intervention and control groups in baseline testosterone concentrations or aggressive behavior at the beginning of the experiment,” Carré said. “Differences in aggressive behavior and testosterone concentrations emerged only later in the game.”1

Overall, the findings suggested that Fast Track was successful in reducing the participants’ aggression toward a hostile peer as it changed the way their neuroendocrine systems responded to social provocation.1

[1] Nauert, R. (2014). Youth Intervention Diminishes Adult Aggression. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 4, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/04/02/youth-intervention-diminishes-adult-aggression/67982.html

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