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Angry, Risk-Taking Adolescents Lack Verbal and Physical Intimacy Experiences
Similarly, in another study, adolescents' intimacy with parents and friends was noted to be a protective factor (Field et al., 1995). In that study, adolescents' perceived levels of intimacy with their mother, father, and close friend were examined as a function of demographic, family, school, and psychological variables. Students who had greater intimacy with their parents had greater interest in school, higher self-esteem, lower depression, and lower risk-taking scores.
We then added items to the above questionnaire to tap variables related to anger in a sample of 89 high school seniors attending a private high school (Silver, Field, et al., 2000). One yes-no item stated: "Sometimes I get so angry that I worry I will become violent." In this middle to upper socioeconomic status sample, 58 students responded no and 31 responded yes. Splitting the groups by yes-no responses, the anger group (versus the nonanger group) had: (1) less intimacy with their parents, (2) more frequent use of marijuana and cocaine, (3) a lower grade point average, and (4) higher depression scores.
Verbal and Physical Intimacy May Be Lacking Early in Life
In a study on social anxiety and aggression in behaviorally disordered children (Gonzalez, Field, et al., 1996), 39 boys (mean age = 10 years) attending classes for behaviorally disturbed children were given questionnaires on trait anxiety, social anxiety, empathy, depression and self-esteem, and the teachers rated them on aggression. It was hypothesized that anxiety and empathy attenuate aggression. Contrary to our hypothesis, anxiety and empathy scores were not correlated with aggression. However, the children's depression scores were high.
The Physical Contact Deprivation/Aggression Relationship May Be More Pronounced in the American Culture
In our first cross-cultural study, preschoolers in America were touched less and were more aggressive than preschoolers in France (Field, 1999a). In that study, 40 French and American preschool children were observed on playgrounds with their parents and peers. The American parents watched and touched their children less than did the French parents. The American children played with, talked with, and touched their parents less and were more aggressive toward their parents. During peer interactions, the American children touched their peers less, grabbed their peers' toys more, showed more aggression toward their peers, and showed more fussing.
In a similar study, 40 adolescents were observed at McDonald's restaurants in Paris and in Miami to assess the amount of touching and aggression that occurred during their peer interactions (Field, 1999b). The .American adolescents touched each other less and were more aggressive toward their peers compared with the French adolescents. The American adolescents (versus the French adolescents) spent less time touching (leaning against, stroking, kissing, and hugging) their peers. Instead, they showed more self-touching and more aggressive verbal and physical behavior.
Physical Stimulation (Massage Therapy) May Help Reduce Physical Contact Deprivation
In the second study (Diego et al., 2002), 20 violent children and adolescents (mean age = 11.4 years) were randomly assigned to a massage therapy group or a relaxation therapy group to receive 20-minute therapy sessions twice a week for 5 weeks. The massaged adolescents had lower anxiety and cortisol levels and improved mood after the first and last sessions. By the end of the study, the massaged adolescents showed more empathy and were rated as being less aggressive toward objects and less aggressive in general by their parents. The massage therapy group also showed lower dopamine levels by the end of the treatment period. The relaxation therapy group showed no such improvement.
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