Anyone who has been to a children's sporting event has noticed that it seems as though there is always at least one parent yelling at the kids, at the coaches, or at the referees. Have you ever wondered why? Have you ever wondered what they are yelling about?
In a 2012 study in The Journal of Applied Sports Psychology, Omli and LaVoi examined the behaviors of angry parents at sporting events. They surveyed over 700 parents via an online questionnaire asking them to recall a time when they were upset or showed anger at one of their children's sporting events. This study was able to detect what exactly was making parents to become angry. Once all data was collected the research team coded all responses into categories.
The research team found that many parents’ responses could be put into three categories. These three categories include unjust conduct, which means that parents showed anger because they found something to be unfair or impartial. For example, “the referee was not being fair or the coach was not being fair because they didn't play my son more.” The second category had to do with a lack of care toward their child. For example, when a coach exhibited behaviors that were cruel or unkind toward a particular child. Finally, the third category had to do with incompetence like when the offender (e.g., referee, coach) was deemed incapable of doing his or her job.
While, this study was not able to examine the exact behavior of the parent who expressed anger, it was able to examine three situations that may provoke parents’ anger. Therefore, moving forward perhaps future research could look at ways to reduce parents’ anger responses and to explore what kids learn when their parents become so upset.
By Rebecca Arrowood
Rebecca is a senior Psychology major and Human Development minor at the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay. She will be attending graduate school to earn a Masters in Counseling Psychology next fall.
Last week, thanks to my good friend, Regan Gurung, I was lucky enough to sit down for a two-hour dinner with Dr. Albert Bandura. For those of you who don’t know of Dr. Bandura’s work, he’s arguably the most famous living psychologist (or, at least, amongst the top three) and certainly the most popular. His most famous work, The Bobo Doll Study, changed the way people thought of both learning and aggression, as it flew in the face of the accepted theories of the time, conditioning and catharsis, respectively.
The Bobo Doll Study, first done in 1961, is thought of by most psychologists to be one of the three most famous psychology studies of all time (along with the Milgram Obedience Experiments and the Stanford Prison Experiment). In fact, if you haven’t heard of it, it’s probably because you never took an intro psych class or because you took an intro psych class a very long time ago and simply forgot (i.e., it’s unlikely it wasn’t covered). What many people don’t realize, though, is that it wasn’t just one study. It was a series of studies that led to two books on aggression and paved the way for a massive shift in the way psychologists thought about learning. Consequently, his work matters to me as a psychologist, an anger and aggression researcher, and a teacher.
I don’t mind sounding a little bit star-struck by saying that this dinner was one of the highlights of my relatively young career. It wasn’t just fun, though. It was meaningful in other ways. Here are five things I learned (or was reminded of) from Dr. Bandura.
1. Basic research matters. In my research methods course, I try and drive home to students the idea that basic research is important. Even though applied research feels more exciting and more important (wouldn’t we all rather find the cure to something than do the studies that lead up to finding a cure?), the vast majority of applied research projects find their roots in basic research. Dr. Bandura provided me with more ammo for this discussion by reminding me that his original bobo doll study was not designed with any sort of application in mind. This was a study on learning and aggression, pure and simple. Yes, it was putting behaviorism to the test and, yes, it had clear implications to a host of areas (e.g., media violence, advertising). In fact, Dr. Bandura is now working on several international projects to apply this work. But, none of that changes the fact that it was originally carried out as a test of theory with no other intentions.
2. There’s an important place for social activism in academics. Even though his work started as basic research, his current work is clearly intended to bring about social change. He described a book he’s writing on moral disengagement where he will tackle a variety of politically controversial topics (e.g., gun violence, climate change). Meanwhile, he’s involved in literacy projects on at least three continents. To those who believe that professors should avoid any sort of activism, Dr. Bandura serves as a nice example of how wrong they are. He’s doing important work that changes the lives of people across the globe.
3. The support of your institution matters. One thing I was completely unaware of was that there had been many attempts to discredit Dr. Bandura early in his career. The Bob Doll Study, which he completed as an untenured professor at Stanford, was seen as a threat to some fairly powerful groups (television networks, advertising agencies, etc.). At one point, he was asked to testify at a congressional hearing on television violence and, as a result of his work, advertising standards were changed to cut out acts of violence. Not surprisingly, some groups worked to find fault with his research, and he even described turning on the news to find a special on him and the flaws in his research. I asked him if it bothered him and, though he didn’t answer that question directly, he did tell a story about being invited to a meeting with a Stanford administrator at the height of all this. The administrator said, “They’re saying some pretty bad things about your research [pause]. Don’t let the bastards get you down.” I can only imagine that for an untenured professor who found himself somewhat unexpectedly in the public eye, that sort of support would go a long way toward giving him the courage to carry on. I also found myself wondering if that sort of thing would happen again today.
4. So does passion. Before we even entered the restaurant, he started telling us about his upcoming book. And it didn’t stop there. He talked us through almost every chapter- not just the content, but why he was interested in it and how he arrived at his conclusions. As he talked about his work, there was an excitement in his eyes unlike anything you would expect from someone who has been doing this for 50-plus years. He is genuinely passionate about this book. He is not doing it for the money (“the sales will take care of themselves,” he said.). He’s writing it to leave at least one more mark on the world he’s already influenced so greatly.
5. Take pictures. As I said before, most psychologists will tell you that there are three studies in Psychology that stand out as the most famous: The Milgram Obedience Experiments, The Stanford Prison Experiment, and Bandura’s initial Bobo Doll Study. Regan asked him why he thinks these three studies became so well known. He pointed to three things: (1) each had social implications. (2) each involved aggression and included findings that were surprising to people, and (3) each had photo and video evidence of their findings. We spent a lot of time on this last one and how, in a visual world like the one we live in, video/photo footage goes a long way toward helping ideas stand out to people. In fact, some of the other famous studies in psychology (Mischel’s Marshmallow Test, Asch’s Conformity Experiment, and Chabris and Simons Invisible Gorilla Study) all include video footage that helps drive the point home for students and the public at large.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a widespread problem. Due to the aggressive nature of these acts, it stands to reason that anger would contribute to IPV. A recent study by Dr. Sara Elkins and colleagues in Psychology of Violence sought to evaluate the link between recent anger and likelihood of IPV. According to Elkins, “[a]nger interventions fell out of favor in partner violence intervention programs in the mid-90’s in response to claims that anger management interventions for domestic violence infer blame on the victim, promote perpetrator denial because they don’t account for abuse related to exerting power and control, and may place female partners at greater risk for revictimization.” Many local and state advocates for victims of domestic violence have removed anger-focused treatments in a reaction to these assumptions – but this decision may have been too hasty.
No act is committed in a vacuum and as such there are multiple factors that contribute to IPV perpetration. IPV is most likely when the individual possesses strong instigation (exposure to behaviors by a partner that typically “provoke” an urge to aggress), strong impellance (trait or situational factors that prepare the urge to aggress when meeting an instigating factor), and weak inhibition (trait or situational factor that will increase the likelihood that the individual will suppress the urge to aggress). Past research has also suggested that younger age, greater relationship dissatisfaction, and shorter length of relationship have been related to increased rates of IPV. To add to this research, Elkins also examined any possible gender differences that existed.
In Elkins’ current study, participants were given a handheld computer on which they completed a daily-electronic diary assessment for two months. It measured relationship satisfaction, daily anger, and occurrence of aggression toward intimate partners (i.e., psychological, physical assault, and sexual coercion). Recent anger was correlated with all forms of IPV. Younger individuals are more likely than older individuals to engage in psychological aggression at moderate levels of anger. Individuals in longer relationship were also more likely to use psychological aggression than physical aggression or sexual coercion. The rates of IPV occurring in the presence of anger were comparative between genders. The study also found that even though recent anger and relationship dissatisfaction increased the likelihood of IPV, the combination of both of these factors does not have a cumulative effect.
Studies such as these have important information for the social policies we create. Anger is related to IPV in some cases and as such, should be part of intervention programs for those who may benefit from anger management strategies. According to recent research, about half of the states with imposed guidelines for intervention programs for domestic violence prohibit anger-focused interventions. The Alabama Counsel against Domestic Violence (2009) states that “men who batter use anger, alcohol/drug use, and stress as excuses for their abusive behaviors.” Statements such as this may close possible avenues to prevent future IPV. Elkins also adds that “[b]ased on anger ratings, electronic momentary technology could be used to provide in-the-moment coping for anger through scheduled behavioral and cognitive strategies.”
By Sarah Bohman
Sarah is a senior with a major in Psychology and a minor in Human Development at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. After graduation, she plans on attending graduate school to earn a PhD in Clinical Psychology after graduating.
As children, we are consistently taught to apologize after our wrongdoings, and to accept an apology from someone who has acted wrongly against us. This simple construction of behavior based on the concept of forgiveness, we are taught, will ultimately heal all wounds and mend all hurts. Later, as adults, we learn the common saying, “forgive and forget” as a way of dealing with distress or suffering. Both concepts rely largely on marketing the importance of forgiveness in an effort to overcome hardships and heal ourselves. As it turns out, both assertions may have merit.
According to a 2012 study by Daniel Goldman & Nathaniel Wade, forgiveness is important in reducing anger and increasing one’s overall well-being following a hurtful act or situation. The study they conducted looked at the outcomes of people working through an angering event, comparing whether or not the participants worked specifically on finding forgiveness or merely on anger-reduction strategies (e.g. deep breathing, relaxation methods, etc.) against a control group. The study found that the group working with a forgiveness-related focus ultimately ended up with a greater reduction in (desires for) revenge, levels of hostility, and psychological symptoms as compared to the group focusing on anger-reducing strategies. Additionally, the forgiveness group members showed a lasting effect in increased empathy that was not present in the anger-reduction or control groups.
One of the researchers, Nathaniel Wade, states, “[Forgiveness] Interventions seem to be very effective at helping people not only cope with anger and work through those negative feelings, but also to move the person to a ‘better’ place of acceptance and even human flourishing.” Wade’s study emphasizes the importance of achieving forgiveness after being wronged because it does not only reduce unconstructive or potentially damaging thoughts and behaviors but also works to increase positive behaviors and feelings within oneself. This research serves an important tool to spread the message of forgiveness, in that it may not be entirely beneficial to simply work on reducing anger. In the future, when trying to cope with a hurtful experience of some kind, it may be valuable to keep in mind that you do not always have to forget, but research shows you should definitely work on forgiving.
By Lauren Vieaux
Lauren is a junior Psychology and Human Development major with a minor in Women and Gender Studies at the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay. She plans on attending graduate school to earn a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
Since the Sandy Hook shootings on December 14th there has been considerable discussion of gun violence in the United States. As often happens with discussions of policy-making, though, very little of the conversation has been driven by the research on gun-related crime. Gun-enthusiasts, in particular seem to gravitate toward anecdotal evidence of how legal gun ownership is the only way to prevent gun related crime. In fact, just days after the shooting, Executive Vice President and CEO of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, argued that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Of course, as has been addressed before, the data on the impact of concealed carry laws has been difficult to interpret and has allowed for differing conclusions. However, the relationship between gun ownership in a community and gun-related crime in that community can be tested empirically. This was what Dr. Anthony Hoskins set out to do in his 2011 article in Criminal Justice Studies where he found, quite simply, that when it comes to murder and aggravated assault, more guns equal more crime.
His paper used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (a telephone survey conducted every year) and was designed to explore the relationships between percentages of homes with a gun in particular counties with the rates of murders, robberies, and aggravated assaults in those counties, while controlling for a host of demographic variables (e.g., total population, unemployment rate). Ultimately, he was evaluating three different theories on gun ownership and crime: (1) that gun ownership rates are unrelated to violent crime, (2) that gun ownership rates are associated with a decrease in violent crime (the view held by LaPierre and other gun enthusiasts), and (3) that gun ownership rates are associated with an increase in violent crime.
In the end, his evaluation found support for the third hypothesis, that the more guns in a community, the higher the violent crime rate. Specifically, what he identified is that the “introduction of a gun into a violent incident raises the risk of injury or death” (p. 127). In other words, yes, you can kill someone with a hammer or a baseball bat, but you cannot kill them from as far away or in rapid succession the way you can with a gun. It should also be noted that these findings run completely contrary to what LaPierre and other gun advocates have been arguing. They would argue that a higher percentage of gun owners in a community would be negatively correlated with all three forms of violent crime. Instead, it was positively correlated with two types of violent crime (murder and aggravated assault) and uncorrelated with the third (burglary).
By Ryan C. Martin