Presenting issues: Anger

December 30th 2018

Presenting issues: Anger

At Jigsaw, anger is a top issue reported by young people who come to us for support.

Anger is the third biggest issue for young males and the ninth biggest issue for females. Some researchers have suggested this is because anger is often the only acceptable negative emotion for young males to express. Our data tells us that it is more commonly reported by 12-17 year olds than it is by 18-25 year olds. Data from the My World Survey tells us that over 50% of adolescents in Ireland report feeling angry either a lot, or sometimes.

Why do young people get angry?

People experience anger for a multitude of reasons that are not confined to being young. A particular situation, relationship or issue can lead to anger. For others, small annoyances or events can cause them to feel angry, or they may experience anger as a result of bigger, deeper issues they may not even have identified yet.

It is important to consider the difference between anger and aggression. There is nothing wrong with feeling angry; it is the response to that anger that can cause problems. It is important to understand we have a choice about we react and that it does not have to be aggressively. 

Research on methods for dealing with anger

A number of different ways of dealing with anger have been put forward.

In a 2012 experiment, Mischkowski and his colleagues found that participants who used methods of ‘self-distancing’ had fewer aggressive thoughts and angry feelings. Methods of self-distancing included taking a detached view of events, and trying to see a stressful situation as a fly on the wall might see it. 

Other methods to manage anger responses include changing communication styles, particularly learning assertive and direct communication. Some studies suggest that assertiveness skills training can be effective at reducing physical aggression, verbal aggression, anger and hostility in young people.

This blog was influenced by the following research:

Dominik Mischkowski, Ethan Kross, Brad J. Bushman. (2012). Flies on the wall are less aggressive: Self distancing “in the heat of the moment” reduces aggressive thoughts, angry feelings and aggressive behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48 (5): 1187

Speed, B., Goldstein, B., & Goldfried, M. (2017) Assertiveness Training: A Forgotten Evidence‐Based Treatment, Clinical Psychiology Science and Practice Volume 25, Issue 1

Dooley, B. A., & Fitzgerald, A. (2012). My World Survey: National Study of Youth Mental Health in Ireland. Headstrong and UCD School of Psychology.

This blog is one of a series on the presenting issues young people face when coming to Jigsaw.