Public Release: 

New research evidence on anger in children and adults

Economic & Social Research Council

New research uses longitudinal evidence to help understand anger and distinguish between people for whom anger is an occasional experience - and therefore quite normal - and those for whom it is more persistent.

In ESRC's new report Seven Deadly Sins, published to launch Social Science Week 2005, Dr Eirini Flouri and Professor Heather Joshi analyse data from the British birth cohort studies, which have recorded anger in both childhood and adulthood for people born in a week in 1958 (the National Child Development Study) and 1970 (the British Cohort Study). They find that:

  • Children from lower social classes are more likely to be reported as frequently irritable or having tantrums.
  • Women are more likely than men to report being persistently angry in adulthood. But boys are more likely than girls to be reported as frequently angry.
  • Thirty-somethings with no partner are more likely to report angry feelings than people with partners.
  • Anger seems to wane with age in both childhood and adulthood.
  • The older cohort, people now in their 40s, were less angry as young men and women than the younger cohort, people now in their 30s. It is not clear if this is because anger was measured at slightly different ages or because the 1970 cohort were more stressed and depressed as well as more likely to 'act out'.
  • Angry children do not necessarily become angry or unhappy adults. But there does appear to be a raised chance that people who were persistently angry as children turn out to be frequently and persistently angry as young adults.
  • Similarly, anger in adulthood is not always associated with adverse health outcomes. But anger in adulthood is positively associated with poor self-reported health after controlling for gender, parents' social class and ethnicity.
  • People who were not frequently angry in the adult surveys had better self-reported psychological health than those who reported anger. This mildly supports the idea of anger having negative (though perhaps not deadly) associations.

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    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT:

    Eirini Flouri on 020 7612 6289 or Email: e.flouri@ioe.ac.uk or Heather Joshi on 020 7612 6875 or Email: h.joshi@ioe.ac.uk

    Romesh Vaitilingam on 07768 661095

    Or Lance Cole, Lesley Lilley or Becky Gammon at ESRC on 01793 413032/413119/413122

    OTES FOR EDITORS

    1. 'Anger, irritability and hostility in children and adults' by Eirini Flouri and Heather Joshi is chapter 1 in Seven Deadly Sins: A new look at society through an old lens. The authors are at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS), Institute of Education, University of London.

    2. The ESRC report is published to launch Social Science Week 2005, which takes place across the UK from 20-24 June. The week is about highlighting research from the UK's social scientists and how this can contribute to better policymaking and, ultimately, a better society. It is an initiative from the Economic and Social Research Council. For a programme of events: www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/socialscienceweek

    3. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It provides independent, high-quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and government. The ESRC invests more than £93 million every year in social science and at any time is supporting some 2,000 researchers in academic institutions and research policy institutes. It also funds postgraduate training within the social sciences to nurture the researchers of tomorrow. More at www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

    4. ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research (formerly accessible via the Regard website) and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

    5. The analysis in the chapter on Anger draws on the British birth cohort studies. Anger in early childhood was measured by the frequency of irritability at ages 7 and 11 in the 1958 birth cohort and by the occurrence of temper tantrums at ages 5 and 10 in the 1970 birth cohort. Anger in early adulthood - at 23 and 33 in the 1958 cohort and at 26 and 30 in the 1970 cohort - was measured in both studies by the frequency of getting annoyed and irritated by others or of becoming violently enraged.

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