Using Art therapy methods to investigate aggression and revenge in children

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1 Using Art therapy methods to investigate aggression and revenge in children Naghmeh Taghva Farahnaz Nezhadi Abstract Aggression and revenge in children has been studied in various psychological approaches. However, normal aggression may provide developmental opportunities for the learning of self-regulation and assertiveness, children with atypical levels of aggression may be at risk for later violent behaviour and harmful actions as revenge. As children can often say more in pictures than they are able to articulate, Art Therapy would be a useful way to study aggression and revenge in them. Art psychotherapy emphasizes the products such as drawings, paintings, and other art expressions as helpful in communicating issues, emotions, and conflicts. Systematic Investigations in Art Therapy for children is a new use of Art in Psychiatric and Psychological Diagnosis. Formal elements and content level would be survey in drawings. Art therapists should choose methods which are appropriate to their clients needs. Some of the helpful art therapy techniques or tests to peruse aggression and revenge are Draw-A-Person Test, Draw-A-Family Test, House-Tree-Person, Scribble technique, Mandala Assessment Research Instrument, Draw-A-Story, Diagnostics Drawing Series etc. Art therapy programs should be designed to facilitate emotional expression in children in order to manage emotions and to choose appropriate coping strategies instead of violence behaviours and revengeful thoughts. Key Words: Aggression, Revenge, Children, Art Therapy ***** 1. Development of Anger and Aggression in Children Emotional aspect of Aggression is anger. Anger is a temporary state caused by frustration and aggression is often an attempt to hurt a person or to destroy property and it causes pain or harm. Various theories in psychology have underlined aggression from early childhood. In psychoanalysis, aggression is universal and instinct. Freud discussed the origin of fantasies or behaviours which are related to aggression. He described aggressive feelings and thoughts in his patients during free association. Non-Freudian psychodynamic theories of aggression paid attention to this topic from other points of view. Jung propounded the idea of archetypical behaviour inherent in the collective

2 unconscious in According to this theory, aggressive introvert people will be self- destructive, whereas extroverts will show this violence against other people or environment. In 1972, Adler mentioned that the child s feeling of helplessness and his/her development of an inferiority complex would highlight a kind of power as a source of aggression. On the other hand, Hartman, Kris, and Lowenstein focused on the development of the ego and learning instead rather than instinct aggression. 1 Inappropriate aggression was also defined as maladaptive, dysfunctional and angry reaction to danger (real or perceived) and it would be mixed with depression. Connor suggested four subtypes of aggressive behaviours which are defensive, offensive, relational and harmful. Defensive aggression is a reaction to danger and it is impulsive and hyper vigilant. This kind of aggression is related to peer rejection and exposure to violence. Depression, social withdrawal, anxiety, fear and fighting are associated to defensive aggression and it may result from harsh parental discipline, family instability or abuse. Offensive aggression is motivated by reward (dominance, territory, food, and etc.). Studies showed correlations of aggression with positive expectations and social dominance. These aggressors tend to hide their aggressiveness to be protected from injury. Harming a victim s relations with other is relational aggression and suicidal ideation is linked to harmful aggression to oneself. 2 Frustration-Aggression hypothesis 3 and Social Learning Theory 4 are other important ideas in aggression. According to Bandura s social learning theory, children will learn aggressive behaviour through observing and modelling the behaviours, attitudes, reinforcement or punishment and emotional reaction of others. Anger and aggression both are related to emotion regulation during social interactions. 5 6 Revenge and harmful aggressive behavior might be a consequence of having problems in expression and regulation of emotions; therefore numerous studies have been discussed in this field. Changing the way children think about aggression would be effective and the early prevention can modify social cognition of children in moderate resource community. 7 Anger management which is an important parts of Life Skills Training (LST) program, has been considerable for children. LST was proposed by UNICEF and World Health Organization in 1995 to promote children s skills in life. In order to prevent juvenile delinquencies and troublesome behaviors in children which are based on revengeful thoughts, we need to assess and understand their angers. Thus, effective psycho education or therapy would be design to help children in emotional expression and regulation Art-Based assessment for children Using indirect or projective methods such as Art Therapy techniques would be useful for assessment, education and therapy for children. Art Therapy

3 is a mental health profession that uses creative process of art making to improve the mental, emotional and physical well-being. 9 Hidden emotions and internal conflicts in children would be presumably revealed through drawing, painting, collage, playing, art making, storytelling and etc. American Art Therapy Association describes that Art Therapy would make a comfortable situation for children to express themselves non-verbally and to communicate in a creative manner. Many psychological assessments use art making to analyze various emotional, social and cognitive problems.10 Art therapists now serve children in new places: schools, medical hospitals, hospices, detention centers, shelters, and specialized settings for those with eating disorders or substance abuse. Art therapists may do forensic evaluations and may also offer immediate help to youngsters who have suffered traumas. 11 Drawing as an artistic activity that is enjoyable for children and it does not have the anxiety of being under evaluation. 12 As children who have revengeful thoughts may have experienced frustration or disappointment in their previous relationships, there is always some degree of uncertainty at the beginning of therapy sessions with children. Children often have difficulty to explain their feelings of fear, anger, anxiety, guilt and depression, but they can draw and paint these images through Art Therapy. A model for Art Therapy in educational setting with aggressive behaviors explained some problems and dilemmas in this field and highlighted acceptance and directing toward change in the levels of child, parent and teacher and the therapist. 13 Some basic rules should be under consideration to use Art Therapy methods in assessment and communication with children. Choosing methods is dependant on psychological characteristics, age, cultural context, sensory motor and cognitive skills and specific problem of each client. Art therapist should pay attention to clinical reports and observations and also parental interview. Warm up techniques may be used before assessment to make children ready and to decrease resistance. Instruction of each activity should be completely obvious for child and it s important to make a safe and comfortable condition for child. Drawing tools for use with children include graphic pencils with good quality erasers, pens, colored pencils (at least 8 colors and a pencil sharpener), color set of crayons, felt markers, colored chalks, oil pastels (at least 8 colors) and handywipes for cleaning hand (if using chalks or oil pastels) There are two important factors to investigate and interpretation of drawing tests which are Formal Elements and Content Level. Formal elements include line, area of drawing, direction in drawing and color. Content level is related to reactions of child during the activity. 14 Lines in drawing may show psycho motor and emotional condition. Shape and vastness of line is about the length of line, change in lines and order in them. Intensity which represents the power of hand during drawing is also

4 important. Repeat or sharpness of lines is connected to rhythm. Area of drawing indicates quality of relationship with environment and reactions to it. Direction would interpret psychological view and hope. Colors and frequency of them in a page might show child s feeling. To interpret content level, art therapist would consider many items such as body gesture, non-verbal messages, motivation and attention during drawing, self talking or talking to therapist, request for help, hiding the page in the beginning, during or at the end of drawing, accuracy, speed, clean or change frequently and etc. 3. Art Therapy tests and techniques to investigate anger and aggression However art therapy is based on new Freudian theories, dynamically oriented art therapy which was proposed by Naumburg 15 is more important to work with revengeful thoughts of a child. There are varieties of techniques and tests that can be used but art therapist have to select the adequate one as for its specific purpose. Therapist should consider both result and procedure of the activity. Self- created picture books, Drawing Island, Group Mandala, clays capes, Body Contour, The scribble; Angry Mask Collage and the Feeling Tree with Clay are some of these techniques. Several art therapy techniques and tests which are helpful to assess feelings of anger, aggressive behaviours or revengeful thoughts are introduced below as samples of these kinds of techniques. Draw-A-Person Test (DAP Test): Firstly, this projective or cognitive test was recommended by Goodenough in Other psychologists (Harris, 1963 and Naglieri, 1988) have propounded the revision and extension of this test. However, the main purpose of this test was to infer children s cognitive developmental levels and it is used as an important projective test for special clinical needs like emotional disorders. Children are asked to draw thre persons (a man, a woman, and themselves) individually in separate papers. In the first version it was only one person. As a sign of aggression and hostility, a child may draw a big person (which encompasses a vast area of the drawing space) with Angry face especially in eyes, big mouth which is filled with red colour, teeth which are sometimes sharp,nails and sometimes toenails and movement in hands (aggressive) and sometimes a weapon in hand. Draw-A-Family Test (DAF test): Hulse (1951) invented this test to evaluate the drawing of family generally (general quality of mood and mental status) and descriptively (size, distances between each image, force of lines and etc.). In the Kinetic Family Drawing (KFD) which was developed by Burns and Kaufman (1970) children drew their family and themselves while doing something. The examiner who is

5 familiar with the structure of the test and psychological theory of test would ask questions about that picture. House-Tree-Person (HTP): HTP was suggested by Buck, (1948) and then Jolles (1952, 1972) developed this test in three different methods. The child is asked to draw a house, a tree, and a person. In the first part, the drawing is achromatically and the child would answer some questions and then he/she draws another one with various coloured markers or pencils. The questions are about the age of the person in the picture, quality of weather, and some other aspects which would be useful in rating and interpreting the test. These three parts represent different aspects of the child and his/her feeling about him/herself. 16 In the Kinetic House-Tree-Person the child is asked to draw him/herself while he/she is doing something. A systematic rating was also offered by Van Hutton which focused on misbehaviour expressed in children. Some interpretative factors that are used in the KFD test would be used here and they include distance, order, size of figure, attachment, styles, action and symbols. The person may represent the director of energy, the tree would show direction of energy and life and the house is related to physical aspects of life. Scribble technique: The Scribble which was proposed by Cane (1951) can be a catalyst for spontaneous expression. This technique creates a free atmosphere within the therapy room. The child is asked to use his/her whole body to scribble with large movements in the air (possibly eyes closed). Then the child opens his eyes to scribble on the paper. In this part, the child finds a picture or image from the chaos of scribble lines and colour or complete it. Besides the formal elements and content level, talking about emotions is important at any part. Mandala Assessment Research Instrument (MARI): Mandala, is a Sanskrit word which means circle, is famous in Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions. MARI is based on Jung theory and it is useful to unlock information in the unconscious. This instrument involves colouring a mandala and a deck of cards of manadalas. A client is asked to select intuitively a card from a deck with different mandalas and after that he/she must choose a colour from a set of coloured cards. Then a client is asked to draw the mandala from the card. The art therapist would ask some questions about any meaning, experience or other information. For children it may be about their family or relationship and the therapist might explore the importance of things or persons in child s mandala. In Group Mandala, a circle on a large sheet of paper would be divided into sectors like a piece of pie. Individuals decide whether they want to remain in their own piece or they want to enter other people s spaces. Boundaries may be firm or blended with neighbours. Group Mandala can be used in different manner accordind to the aims of the therapist.

6 Draw-A-Story (DAS): DAS was proposed by Silver (1988b, 2002) and it is a sufficient assessment to study aggression and depression in children. 17 DAS asks the child to choose two subjects from an array of stimulus drawings and then imagine some connection between the picked subjects. After that the child must show what is happening by a drawing of his/her own doing. The therapist encourages the child to change the stimulus drawing and add his/her own subjects and thoughts. After finishing the drawing, the child can add stories and the meanings can be clarified during the discussion between the child and the therapist. Diagnostics Drawing Series (DDS): Although there is an additional DDS that addresses children, it is mostly used with adolescents and adults. DDS was introduced to assess a range of psychiatric disorders. The instruction is to make a picture using materials, draw a picture of a tree, and then make a picture of how you are feeling using lines, shapes and colors. For specific interpretation, extensive training is needed to investigate using colors and shapes, the use of people and animals, line quality and length, movement, space and etc. this assessment has a standardized rating system. 18 Although projective tests might have some problems in reliability and validity, they are based on psychological theories and most of them have an instruction to assess or to investigate emotional disorders in children. 19 Art Therapy Techniques would be a secure bridge for a child to show feelings and thoughts about anger and revenge, therefore adequate therapy, education or intervention can be designed to help an aggressive child. Notes Revengeful thoughts are harmful for one and others; this kind of thinking indicates that there is a huge source of anger inside the person which could not be expressed in a healthy way. The worlds of Art and Psychology are creating Art Therapy techniques to help people in order to express their emotions and to improve emotional and social skills. Drawing as the most important part of Art Therapy is a safe and enjoyable activity especially for children and it is the valuable source to explore unconscious fantasies, feelings and thoughts. In order to use these instruments, art therapists should introduce valid and reliable tests and study the results in different cultures. Revenge and aggression has a long history in human life but it has a somehow different form and figures today. Violence Prevention in children would be a step toward making a world a better place to live and to love. 1 International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. Retrieved from viewed on May 2008.

7 2 D F Connor, Aggression and antisocial behavior in children and adolescents, Guilford Press, New York, J Dollard, N E Miller et al., Frustration and aggression, Yale University Press, New Haven, A Bandura, Social Learning Theory. New York: General Learning Press N Eisenberg, Emotion, Regulation, and Moral Development. Annual Review of Psychology, Vol 51, February 2000, PP W Roberts, The socialization of emotion expression: Relations with prosocial behavior and competence in five samples. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, Vol 31, April 1999, PP The Metropolitan Area Child Study Research Group, Changing the way children think about aggression: social-cognitive effects of a preventive intervention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 75, February 2007, PP N Taghva, The effect of Life Skills Training on the emotional intelligence of adolescent girls. Master of Art in Psychology dissertation, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran American Art Therapy Association, Inc, About Art Therapy, viewed on April 2007, <http://www.arttherapy.org/about.html> 10 D J Betts, A systematic analysis of art therapy assessment and rating instrument literature. Doctoral dissertation, Florida State University, Tallahassee. 2005, Published online at <http://www.art-therapy.us/assessment.htm.> 11 J A Rubin, Child Art Therapy, 25 th anniversary edition. Hoboken, New Jersey. John Wiley and Sons, Inc D Harris, Children s drawings as measures of intellectual maturity. New York NY: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc E Nissimov-Nahum, A model for art therapy in educational setting with children who behave aggressively. The Arts in Psychotherapy, Vol. 35, Issue 5, 2008, PP P Dadsetan, Personality evaluation of children based on drawing tests. Tehran, Roshd Inc [In Farsi]. 15 M Naumburg, Dynamically oriented art therapy: Its principles and practice. New York. NY: Grune & Stratton C A Malchiodi, Understanding children s drawings. New York: The Guilford Press R Silver, Aggression and Depression Assessed Through Art. Brunner-Routledge. Taylor and Francis group. New York and Hove. 2005, P B M Cohen & A K Kijak, An introduction to the Diagnostic Drawing Series: A standardized tool for the diagnostic and clinical use Art therapy, Vol 11, No 2, 1994, PP G Groth-Marnat, Handbook of psychological assessment, John Wiley and sons inc, New Jersey, Bibliography American Art Therapy Association, Inc, About Art Therapy. viewed on April 2007, Bandura, A., Social Learning Theory. New York: General Learning Press Betts, D. J., A systematic analysis of art therapy assessment and rating instrument literature. Doctoral dissertation, Florida State University, Tallahassee. 2005, Published online at

8 Cohen, B. M., & Kijak, A. K., An introduction to the Diagnostic Drawing Series: A standardized tool for the diagnostic and clinical use. Art therapy, Vol 11, No 2, 1994, PP Connor, D. F., Aggression and antisocial behavior in children and adolescents. Guilford Press, New York, Dadsetan, P., Personality evaluation of children based on drawing tests. Tehran, Roshd Inc [ In Farsi]. Dollard, J., Miller N. E. et al., Frustration and aggression. Yale University Press, New Haven, Eisenberg, N., Emotion, Regulation, and Moral Development. Annual Review of Psychology, Vol 51, February 2000, PP Groth-Marnat, G., Handbook of psychological assessment, John Wiley and sons inc, New Jersey, Harris, D., Children s drawings as measures of intellectual maturity. New York NY: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. Retrieved from viewed on May Malchiodi, C. A., Understanding children s drawings. New York: The Guilford Press Naumburg, M., Dynamically oriented art therapy: Its principles and practice. New York. NY: Grune & Stratton Nissimov-Nahum, H., A model for art therapy in educational setting with children who behave aggressively. The Arts in Psychotherapy, Vol. 35, Issue 5, 2008, PP Roberts, W., The socialization of emotion expression: Relations with prosocial behavior and competence in five samples. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, Vol 31, April 1999, PP Rubin, J. A., Child Art Therapy. 25 th anniversary edition. Hoboken, New Jersey. John Wiley and Sons, Inc Silver, R., Aggression and Depression Assessed Through Art. Brunner-Routledge. Taylor and Francis group. New York and Hove. 2005, P. 19. Taghva,N., The effect of Life Skills Training on the emotional intelligence of adolescent girls. Master of Art in Psychology dissertation, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran The Metropolitan Area Child Study Research Group, Changing the way children think about aggression: social-cognitive effects of a preventive intervention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 75, February 2007, PP Naghmeh Taghva a, Farahnaz Nezhadi b a - PhD Candidate, Department of Psychology, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran b -Department of Art Therapy, Ameneh Counseling Center, Tehran, Iran.

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