Description: Aggressive behaviors in childhood currently serve as the leading cause of counselor referrals within the United States. Children exhibiting maladaptive aggressive symptomology are at an increased risk for highly externalized and problematic behaviors across the lifespan. Emotional self-regulation and empathy are two constructs currently believed to be closely related to aggression, but a lack of research exploring these variables currently exists in the counseling literature. In this study I examined the effect of child-centered play therapy (CCPT), is a manualized, developmentally responsive, and nondirective intervention, on these variables. Participants were 71 students from four Title 1 elementary schools in the southwest U.S. referred by teachers for aggressive behavior (12 females, 59 males; age range 5-10 years with mean age 6.28. The sample consisted of 52.1% (n = 37) children identified as African American, 21.1% (n = 15) as Latina/Latino, 19.7% (n = 14) as Caucasian, and 7% as multiracial (n = 5). Participants were randomly assigned to 8 weeks of a twice-weekly CCPT experimental group (n = 36) or a waitlist control group (n = 35). Results of descriptive discriminant analyses (DDA) of the Social Emotional Assets and Resilience Scale and the Children’s Aggression Scale scores revealed that parents perceived children’s group membership in CCPT as significant and reasonably predictive of improvement in children’s aggression, self-regulation, and empathy. However, teachers did not perceive a statistically significant difference between the two groups with respect to these variables. These results suggest the relevancy of CCPT for parents in providing children with a developmentally responsive intervention to reduce aggressive behaviors and support their healthy development.
Date: May 2016
Creator: Wilson, Brittany Jean