Penn professor uses basketball, martial arts to help young men learn to control anger

June 03, 2001

PHILADELPHIA -- A University of Pennsylvania professor is teaching troubled boys to control their aggression through basketball, martial arts and cultural pride.

Howard Stevenson, an associate professor in Penn's Graduate School of Education and director of the program, has helped more than 150 youngsters at Philadelphia's E.S. Miller School during the past three years. Stevenson has found that through the mentoring program violent behavior declined dramatically. "The kids who fight the most benefit the most," Stevenson said. "They are able to improve their anger control and their rejection sensitivity."

Youths who attend the West Philadelphia school all have a history of assault. They believe that violence is a way of proving one's manhood and do not consider the negative effects of fighting, Stevenson said. His goal is to teach them other ways of dealing with their emotions.

Through the use of the basketball court, martial-arts training and group therapy where cultural education is taught, the five-year project integrates a combination of intervention and research strategies to bring about positive change in these young people's lives.

The program, PLAAY (Preventing Long-term Anger and Aggression in Youth), is part of the W.E.B. Dubois Collective Research Institute at Penn. Undergraduate students from Penn's W.E.B. Dubois College House and graduate students from the Graduate School of Education and the School of Social Work mentor the students, who range in age from 10 to 19.

A support network is provided for the parents of the students at E.S. Miller School. "Alumni" of the program also come back to speak to the kids about their experiences.
Grants from the National Institute of Mental Health support the program and the W.E.B Dubois Collective Research Institute.

University of Pennsylvania

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