The purpose of this paper is to examine naturally occurring episodes of aggressive interaction among adolescents in residential correctional programmes. The aims of our study were twofold. First, the development of a new camera-glasses method, and second, the method's applicability in the study of aggressive adolescents in residential care.
Based on a mobile assessment strategy, the paper developed a new methodology for in-the-field recording of environmental conditions in which aggressive behaviour arises. The authors used glasses with an inbuilt camera worn by research subjects to record observational data. In the particular study presented here the authors used camera-glasses to observe the material and social environments of eight aggressive adolescents in a residential treatment programme and of a contrast group of four non-aggressive adolescents living at home.
The crucial methodological findings are that camera-glasses successfully record the social and physical environments of aggressive adolescents from their perspective in relation to their environment and interlocutors, and that the camera-glasses method does not generate high reactivity. The results show that aggressive adolescents in residential care use direct and reactive forms of aggression, and that their aggressive behaviours occur predominantly in settings with limited adult supervision. In residential care aggressive behaviour is, paradoxically, an effective strategy for individuals to gain regard and social status among peers and to push their interests among staff.
An obvious limitation is the reliance on a small sample which limits the generalisation of the results.
For residential facilities it is crucial to reduce the occurrence of low supervised social situations in order to minimise peer contagion. Furthermore, staff and educators need to be trained to use deescalating response strategies when dealing with adolescents’ aggressive behaviour, precisely deescalating strategies which neither involve acquiescence nor surrender to pressure.
Our investigations demonstrate that the camera-glasses method is a promising new assessment technique which has applicability in various fields of adolescent research.
The authors thank Claudia Gross (University of Auckland, New Zealand) for preparing the English text and Frank Vitaro for helpful discussions. This study is part of the research project “Pilot Study. Life Worlds of Aggressive Boys and Girls: The Assessment of Interactions by means of Camera-Glasses – Development of a Method”, No. 08s 00 01 of the Center for Research and Development, University of Applied Sciences, PHBern, Switzerland.
Wettstein, A. and Scherzinger, M. (2015), "Using camera-glasses for the assessment of aggressive behaviour among adolescents in residential correctional care: a small-scale study", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 33-46. https://doi.org/10.1108/JACPR-04-2014-0117
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