Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

R. Steve McCallum

Committee Members

Sherry Mee Bell, Charles L. Thompson, Robert G. Wahler


Sixteen seventh and eighth graders from a rural East Tennessee middle school participated in an anger management group training program based on Rational Emotive Behavior Theory (REBT). The participants were identified as having behavior problems in the school setting, characterized by the number of office referrals acquired in the previous school year.

When tested on knowledge of REBT concepts directly following treatment (post-test), the participants earned significantly higher scores compared to baseline (pre-test). This knowledge gain remained significant after an 8-week follow-up period. Effect sizes for these comparisons were large. Additionally, the 7th graders’ post-test scores were significantly higher than the pre-test scores of the 8th graders (serving as a waiting control group).

Program effectiveness was also assessed based on the number of office referrals accrued by the participants. No significant differences exist from baseline to intervention or from baseline to follow-up. Moderate and large effect sizes were found for the overall group and the 7th and 8th grade subgroups from baseline to follow-up. A large effect was found for the 8th graders from baseline to intervention. The number of 8th grade (waiting control group) office referrals during baseline was significantly higher than the 7th graders’ during follow-up.

The participants’ level of rational thinking and (stated) action, as well as attribution levels, were evaluated through written responses to anger-inducing scenarios. Rationality of stated actions increased for the overall group and 7th and 8th grade subgroups. Rationality of thinking remained stable for the overall group, increased for the 7th graders, and decreased for the 8th graders. Analysis of attribution data revealed mostly positive trends (toward more internal attributions for anger) for ability, luck, and task difficulty. Effort was the only attribution with a trend toward more external attributions, i.e., the participants did not respond that they would try harder to control their anger over the course of the training.

Results of this study suggest that training programs such as this may be effective in teaching children the principles of REBT. Such knowledge may lead to an increase in the use of these principles for anger management, thus reducing aggressive behavior.

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