Aggression Replacement Training

About the programme
Aggression Replacement Training (ART) is a cognitive behavioural intervention focused on adolescents, training them to cope with their aggressive and violent behaviours. ART was designed by Arnold P. Goldstein and Barry Glick in the 1980s (Goldstein & Glick, 1988; Goldstein, Glick and Gibbs 1998/2000). It is a multimodal programme and has three components; Social skills, Anger Control Training and Moral Reasoning.
Each of the three components focuses on different aspects of social functioning and uses a process to insure youth learn the skills in class and transfer such skills to new situations outside of the group. The model also focuses on the concept of peer learning by Jean Piaget. It has been shown that youth learn best from other youth.    
The Family ART programme has been developed by Robert Calame and Kim Parker at Batshaw Youth and Family Centre in Quebec, Canada. The programme has been processed and developed in cooperation with the ART centre at Djakonhjemmet University College and Lindøy-centre for children and youth in Stavanger (Norway). The Family ART’s structure is very similar to the ART programme.

The goal of the training is to improve the ability of the participants to function socially and to reduce anger. The training focuses on finding action alternatives which are effective for everyone through a role play. The purpose of the Family ART programme is to increase the probability of new behaviour generalized at home. The programme is based on group work with four-eight families training together through family discussions, role play and constructive feedback.

Target groups 
The programme is aimed mostly at children and youth who are in danger of developing problem behaviour (primary prevention) and persons that have already developed behaviour problems (secondary prevention of further negative  development). However, persons with adequate behaviour also benefit from this programme. 

The method 
ART is a 10 week programme, meeting three times a week for one hour for each of the components. To have the best results it is facilitated and co-facilitated by trained group facilitators. Room set up, introduction of materials, the number of participants, and the participants’ history are all issues that work towards having a profitable group.
Goldstein, Glick and Gibbs (1998) recommend a group of 6 – 8 participants, but smaller groups, especially in the beginning of the programme, can be necessary and desired if the participants have serious behaviour problems. If the group is too small, the training might loose its dynamics and structure as some role plays require a large number of participants, and there will be less feedback from other participants.

Many youths have difficulties controlling their anger and/or lack social skills. The ART intervention focuses on the following social skills that are particular to reducing aggressive behaviour:
•    Making a complaint                               •    Understanding the feelings of others
•    Dealing with someone else’s anger        •    Getting ready for a difficult conversation
•    Keeping out of fights                              •    Dealing with group pressure
•    Dealing with an accusation                    •    Helping others
•    Expressing affection to others                •    Responding to failure

These social skills are broken down into various steps (both thinking and action steps). The facilitator discusses the day’s skill, bringing out relevant examples. Then the facilitator demonstrates a situation to give the youth a picture of how to perform the skill. The youth are asked to point out each of the steps. Then each of the youths is asked to use a relevant situation that they have recently had using the skill. Again, the other youths go through and discuss each of the steps each time.

Anger control training is the affective component of ART. This moves from the teaching of social skills to losing anti-social skills and replacing them with pro-social skills. The anger control training uses the anger control chain. This is a process taught to the youth to deal with situations that cause them to get angry. Once again, one segment of the anger control chain is taught each week, the both the facilitators and the youth practise the new skills with relevant life activities. The anger control chain is as follows;

•    Triggers (external and internal) – The situation that starts the slide into anger and the self talk that perpetuates it
•    Cues – physical signs of becoming angry
•    Anger reducers – three (deep breathing, counting backwards, and pleasant imagery) to help reduce or take our mind off of the situation
•    Reminders – short positive statements that we say to ourselves to further reduce the angry impulses
•    Thinking ahead – Identifying the consequences of our behaviors
•    Social Skill – Implementing a pro-social skill into the situation
•    Evaluation – Looking back over the use of the anger control chain and evaluating how was implemented

Moral reasoning is the cognitive component of ART. This component provides adolescents with opportunities to take perspectives other than their own, thereby, learning to view their world in a more fair and equitable way. Group facilitators also identify four thinking errors to facilitate perspective taking and remediate moral developmental delay. The thinking errors that are identified are:
•    Self-centered thinking – «It’s all about me»
•    Assuming the worst – «It would happen anyways», or «They would do it to me»
•    Blaming others – «It’s their fault»
•    Mislabelling / minimizing – «it’s not stealing, I’m only borrowing it...», or «Everybody else does it» 

ART in the world   
ART has been thoroughly evaluated in several states in the USA (among others Washington), Sweden, recently in Great Britain and Norway.
ICART is an association of specialists and institutions in North America (USA and Canada) and Europe that practise ART, or its variation. The association was founded by Arnold P. Goldstein, and consists of the specialists who, in Goldstein`s opinion, are able to continue spreading and developing ART. Researchers at colleges and universities, correctional services, child welfare (public and private), health care, and school sector are represented in the association. The association gives advice on ART and distributes contact information of the relevant organizations.

ART in Norway 
In Norway, this method is applied in kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools, child welfare agencies, within psychiatry and in work with people with Asperger syndrome.
The Diakonhjemmet University College in Rogaland is the academic centre for the ART method in Norway. In 1999, after the meeting with Arnold P. Goldstein, a continuing education course (60 study points) in social competence training was started there, with special focus on the ART-method.
Nowadays, there are ART groups across the country with around 2000 instructors. Norwegian academic ART environment has become one of the leading ones in the world. The ”Youth Alternative” in Sweden, Knut Gundersen, Børge Strømgren and Luke Moynahan get a large part of the credit for this. The Diakonhjemmet University College in Rogaland functions as a junction for the ART activity in Norway and has produced a number of interesting research articles based on the effect studies on ART in Norway.

The research group appointed by the Directorate of Education and the Directorate of Health and Social Issues in Norway made the following conclusion about ART:
«The Programme is considered to belong to category 3: Programme with documented results. The research group recommends ART for use at lower secondary school in groups where behaviour problems have already developed, or are likely to develop. Used as a primary prevention, the programme should be supplemented with school-wide measures.»
The experience shows that the family’s interaction patterns change considerably, the children`s pro-social skills and behaviour have improved after the ART training, and the relapse into earlier destructive behaviour is reduced.

ART in Russia 
ART method is implemented in all the four north-western regions of Russia participating in the programme “Children and Youth at Risk in the Barents region, 2008-2015”. More than 1760 of children and youths have done a course in ART and Family ART. As of November 2014, more than 300 professionals had undergone basic ART training within the CYAR and were certified as trainers, including 100 professionals trained within Family ART, 16 professionals from Karelia, the Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions and Komi Republic are certified master trainers and consequently can train new ART trainers.

The pilot part of the research project to evaluate ART efficiency in Russia started under the bilateral cooperation between Norway and the Karelia Republic in 2009. Since 2012 the core activities within research have started including now also other regions participating in the CYAR programme. The research project in general involves more than 20 institutions from the social, educational and penal systems. 

The objective of the research activities is to evaluate the ART efficiency with regards to a) training of social skills, b) mastering anger control and c) reduction of problem behaviour of children and youths participating in the ART groups. An average group consists of 6-7 members aged from 7 to 17. Questionnaire survey is performed among both children and teachers or tutors of the institutions, as well as parents, partly filling in the questionnaires, who participate in the ART groups. According to the questioning procedure, the respondents have to fill in the questionnaires twice – before and after the ART method use (pre-test, post-test 1). In case if the ART method is followed by the Family ART, another evaluation form is added (post-test 2).

Questioning includes filling out a questionnaire (Social Skills Rating Scale) (Gresham & Elliot, 1990) (SSRS), allowing to evaluate a wide range of social skills, as well as questionaries for evaluation of problem and positive behaviour. SSRS includes the following scales: cooperativity, thinking, self-control, responsibility, hyperactivity, “external” behaviour (behavioural problems, aggression), “internal” behaviour (anxiety, depression). SSRS is filled in by a child, a teacher (tutor) and a parent.

At the moment the data from the main research project have been analyzed. On the basis of the child questionnaires (self-reports), the results have shown positive changes of the general indicators of social competence compared to the pre-test and post-test among the children from the ART-group. The ART-group has demonstrated a higher level on all the four sub-scales on the scale of social skills, such as cooperativity, self-affirmation, compassion and self-control. The most reliable and marked effect of the programme is observed o age groups; 6 - 9 years and 10 -14 years. On the contrary, the control group (children who did not participate in the ART group), when compared to the results of pre- and post-tests, has not demonstrated any changes neither in general indicators of social competence nor subscales of the SSRS. The data provided by the parents and teachers, the children in both the experiment and control groups demonstrate more social competence and less problem behaviour when we compare the indicators of the pre- and post-test in the groups.

The general results indicate a considerable improvement of the social skills among the children in the experiment group. However, the improvement is also registered in the control group. This finding can be considered as a result of the influence of the children from the experiment group on the children from the control group. (Koposov, R., Gundersen, K, & Svartdal, F. (2014). Efficacy of Aggression Replacement training among children from North-west Russia. The International Journal of Emotional Education, 6 (1), 14-24.) 

Terms of use

Contact information

Knut Gundersen
Associate professor
The Diakonhjemmet University College of Rogaland, Norway
Tlf.: +47 51 97 22

Roman Koposov
Associate professor
Center for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare, Northern Norway
UiT the Arctic University of Norway
Tlf: +47 776 45 880