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Addressing engagement, anger and aggression through the Rock Water Program: Rural adolescent males’ perceptions

Edwards, Paul, van de Mortel, Thea, Stevens, John
The Australian journal of rural health 2017 v.25 no.4 pp. 241-245
adolescents, aggression, behavior disorders, boys, focus groups, girls, interviews, learning, males, mental health, questionnaires, rural health, schools, students, violence
OBJECTIVE: The Rock and Water Program (RWP) has been implemented in some Australian schools as a means of addressing school disengagement, anger and aggression, which are significant determinants of mental illness. However, much of the evidence supporting the RWP is anecdotal. This project explored rural adolescent males’ perceptions of the RWP. DESIGN: Questionnaires were used to gather data about the students prior to their commencement in the RWP. Focus group interviews were conducted with students at weeks 5 and 9 of the 9‐week program. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: The RWP was facilitated in four schools in rural NSW over three terms for a total of 12 program deliveries. One hundred and eighty‐seven rural adolescent males participated in the focus groups. The participants were identified by their school as disengaged in schoolwork and either perpetrators and/or victims of anger and aggression. MAIN OUTCOME: Participants liked the ‘learning by doing’ action‐oriented approach, and reported learning strategies that could reduce aggression in the school and wider community. RESULTS: The focus groups provided insight into why these adolescent boys engaged with this program when generally engagement in school, overall, was reported as poor. Suggestions for program improvement included more or longer sessions, and the inclusion of girls. CONCLUSION: This study found that the RWP engaged rurally based boys, who spoke positively about the action‐oriented program. Future research could examine if this translates into reduced incidents of anger and violence at school and improved school engagement and overall physical and mental health.