Preventing teenage aggressionDR MOHAMED HATTA SHAHAROM
During my year-long training in forensic psychiatry which began in May 1993 at Monash University Rosanna Forensic Psychiatry Centre and Pentridge Prison in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, the focus was on adult patients.
All psychiatric patients we treated were under the supervision of Professor Emeritus Dr Paul Mullen.
They were involved in the violation of the law including violence, murder and fraud in the administrative field.
Their childhood and adolescence development were also being studied.
This time, I will be talking about violence among children and teenagers.
It included temper tantrums, physical aggression, verbal and physical fights, threats or attempts to injure or kill another person, use of weapons, arson, destruction of property, vandalism and cruelty towards animals.
The increased risk of violent behaviours among children and teenagers was a complex interaction between the following various factors:
1. History of violent behaviour.
2. Victims of physical and sexual abuse.
3. Domestic and community violence.
4. Genetic factors and family factors.
5. Exposure to violence in the media.
6. Unemployment and victims of bullying.
7. Alcohol and drug use.
8. Socioeconomic stress in the family.
9. Divorce of parents, mother or single father.
10. Loss of support from extended family.
11. Brain damage due to head injury.
Behavioural clusters that required evaluation were intense anger, hot temper and emotional outbursts, strong impulsiveness and getting easily frustrated.
Parents or other close family members must act immediately if a child exhibited a negative attitude.
Troubled teenagers must receive attention from mental health professionals such as psychologists or child and adolescent psychiatrists.
Keep in mind, early treatment by a professional often resulted to four positive things.
Firstly, it prevented the situation of teenagers and children from getting worse.
Secondly, they can be treated effectively.
Thirdly, weaknesses in their sociopsychological development can be overcome.
Fourthly, their psychospiritual strength can be nurtured over time.
They can learn to control their anger, express anger and frustration in an appropriate way, take responsibility for their actions and accept the consequences of their actions in a positive way.
Accordingly, family conflicts, school problems and community issues must be managed well and effectively.
Studies showed that many violent behaviours can be reduced or avoided by reducing the risk factors listed above.
It was also important to reduce the exposure of children and teenagers to violence at home, in the community and through the media.
The postmodern way of life now required the involvement of parents and teachers to be more interactive and more sensitive when compared to the way of life half a century ago.
Children and teenagers now have the rights to receive attention and love from their married parents or single mothers or fathers.
Parenting skills needed to be learned and strengthened by postmodern parents.
It was through their care that children who were alive and growing can learn how to live a positive and resilient life.
Not only can adolescent violence be avoided, negative traits in life can also be prevented.
Cooperation between parents and teachers is a positive effort.
The support of a large family for children who grew up without a father or mother was also a cause for character development in children and adolescents.
Professor Datuk Dr Mohamed Hatta Shaharom is a psychiatrist and Ikram's psychospiritual advisor