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Edwards, PC 2013, 'An action research project examining anger and aggression with rural adolescent males participating in the Rock and Water Program', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright PC Edwards 2013


The Rock and Water Program (RWP) was used as a means of contacting 187 rural adolescent males from four schools on the north coast of NSW in order to explore their views relating to anger and aggression as well as their perception of the RWP, which is a popular program used with boys in Australian schools. Working with focus group participants showed that historical-cultural attitudes have a direct impact on this cohorts experience and expression of anger while also impacting their views related to learning activities and programs.

A qualitative research methodology was utilized where focus groups were the method of data collection and thematic analysis the means by which the focus group data set was structured and analyzed. An action research framework of three cycles (phases) was utilized to enhance the focus group structure allowing for responsiveness to participant feedback by broadening and clarifying the inquiry, which enabled the following research questions to be thoroughly explored:

1. What do participants think about the RWP?

2. How would participants change the RWP to improve it?

3. How do adolescent male participants recognise anger in themselves and others?

4. Under what circumstances would adolescent male participants become aggressive?

5. Where do adolescent male participants learn skills to deal with aggressive incidents?

The RWP was clearly endorsed by focus group participants as a positive means of engaging them in a program that targets, among other issues, problematic anger and aggression. Focus group participants highlighted that despite a negative stigma associated with anger management they did want to learn skills to deal more effectively with their anger. They identified a folk theory of anger where anger is experienced as something separate to the self that contributes to a reduced personal responsibility for any negative consequences resulting from their anger or aggression.

Participants’ dialogue about anger potentially masked certain skill deficits that have remained unaddressed due to the historical-cultural belief that anger reduces the ability to think clearly. A number of personological and situational primes (antecedents) for aggression are identified by focus group participants that are directly linked with an historical concept of Australian masculinity known as larrikinism. This historical-cultural genesis to anger has directly impacted focus group participants’ experience of anger and explains why they act aggressively in certain contexts.