The effectiveness of psychodrama on social skills and life satisfaction of disadvantaged early-adolescents

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Authors: Şahin Yoluk, İ., Togay, A., & Kırlangıç Şimşek, B. (2020).

First published: Zeitschrift für Psychodrama und Soziometrie, 19(1), 7-19. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11620-020-00559-9

Abstract.

In this study, it was aimed to investigate the effectiveness of psychodrama on social skills and life satisfaction of early adolescents living in socio-economically disadvantaged conditions. This study is a quasi-experimental design with pre-test, post-test and with a control group. Both the experiment group and the control group consisted of 8 members (5 girls, 3 boys). 10-session psychodrama was conducted with the experiment group under supervision. The Children’s Self-Report Social Skills Scale and Brief Multidimensional Student’s Life Satisfaction Scale were used to testing the aim of the study. Mann-Whitney U test and Wilcoxon signed rankings test were used to analyze the data. In psychodrama sessions, according to the needs of the group, individual, mostly group games, role-playing, doubling, role changing techniques were used. There was a significant difference in favour of the experimental group, between the post-test total scores of the social skills of the experimental and control groups after the experiment. However, there was no significant difference between the post-test total life satisfaction scores after the experiment. Results showed a significant difference between before and after the psychodrama experience group the scores of social skills. Also, the scores of the adolescents participating in the study from the multidimensional life satisfaction scale showed a significant difference between before and after the psychodrama experience group. As a result of the study, it was found that psychodrama, affects social skills and life satisfaction of adolescents.

Introduction

Adolescence is a period in which various physiological, psychological and social changes occur between childhood and adulthood (Erikson 1950, 1968; Kulaksızoglu 1998; Kroger 2004). In normal development, the child’s social environment expands from the nuclear family to the extended family, from there to family friends, to peers in the neighbourhood, to schoolmates (Reid 1999). It is an important opportunity for young people to grow, develop creativity and self-discovery (WHO 2018a). While having positive social relations during adolescence increases feelings of belonging and leads to positive results (Smokowski et al. 2000; Gilligan 2000); living in adverse and difficult conditions, which can lead to crime and school drop-out and can be considered as being in a risk group (Masten 1994; Gokler and Gokler Danısman 2011; WHO 2018a, b). Adolescents with environmental risk factors such as economic difficulties, poverty, familial and social traumas; families can develop their potential when supported by policies and services that take care of their needs (Gizir 2007; UNICEF 2018). The services that can be offered to adolescents with risk factors are aimed at the multi-faceted development of adolescents. In this context, self-esteem and self-efficacy, self-awareness and self-acceptance, autonomy, effective problem-solving skills, optimism and hope and social competence of adolescents are to be developed. For adolescents, psychotherapy groups provide a safe, supportive, inclusive and empathic environment in which limits are defined by an adult therapist (Gokler and Gokler Danısman 2011). Adolescents in society learn, have fun and socialize in various groups. Therefore, group therapy can be easily used to provide individuals with a range of knowledge, skills and awareness (Seligman 1982). Also, because peers affect each other considerably, group counselling increases the likelihood of applying and modelling behaviours shown by peers and other important people (Gazda 1969). Yalom (2003) stated that within groups are therapeutic factors such as hope instillation, knowledge transfer, altruism, social skills development, modelling, commitment and interpersonal learning. Group work is a micro-universe in which the child’s various relationships are reflected (Yalom 1995). Just as the child or adolescent behaves in daily life, he/she behaves similarly in the group. For group members, it can serve as a mirror showing how others respond to their own way of forming relationships. Being a member of the group provides an area in which new ways of establishing relationships with others can be tried (Chazan 2001). When evaluated in this context, psychodrama with children and adolescents can affect a very large group with its richness and inclusiveness, as well as superiority in practice (Altinay 2007). In this study, the effects of psychodrama on social skills and life satisfaction of adolescents living in disadvantaged socioeconomic conditions were investigated.
Social skills; are defined as behaviours that are necessary for initiating and sustaining positive interaction with others in a social environment with individuals (Westwood 1993). These skills play an important role in establishing satisfactory interpersonal relationships and achieving social goals (Sorias 1986). In adolescence, social skills training, including: behavioural change, correction of defence mechanisms, symptom reduction, correction of peer relationships, using period-specific processes, through group practices, can provide effective support and improvement (Tamar and Guvenir 1997; Dworetzky 1996). When studies on social skills development, with adolescents, are examined; it is seen that four approaches are used: operant conditioning procedures, coaching, social learning approaches or cognitive behavioural techniques (Matson et al. 1995). Experiential approaches, such as psychodrama, aim to enable individuals to use appropriate ways of behaving in different social situations and to offer valid alternative responses (Clark and Fullwood 1994). The development of basic social skills is an important healing factor that operates in all therapy groups. In some cases, social skills development is clearly emphasized. For example, group members, consisting of children and adolescents, gain skills by participating in the games and communicating with peers through role playing techniques (Gokler and Gokler Danısman 2011). Therefore, it is inevitable that group practices and programs, in which attitudes and behaviours that contribute to emotional and social skills, will be learned. This is a necessity for individuals to be happy and at peace with themselves (Palut 2003).
During adolescence, not achieving academic success, professional development and emotional well-being may lead to negative depressive tendencies and academic failure, escaping from the school, may experience emotional, behavioural and academic problems such as illegal behaviour (Roeser et al. ,1998). Difficulties in this transition phase can also be reflected in the quality of the adolescents’ lives, which may lead to less satisfaction with their lives. Perceived life quality, which is also called perceived life satisfaction (Huebner et al. 2004), consists of cognitive evaluations of the individual regarding his/her quality of life (Myers and Diener 1995). Life satisfaction levels of adolescents vary between stages of adolescence age. It is seen that general life satisfaction is lower in early adolescence compared to the last period of childhood and adolescence (Chang et al. 2003; Ullman and Tatar 2001). In this period, studies showing that the level of satisfaction with family (Goldbeck et al. 2007; Huebner et al. 2005; Nickerson and Nagle 2004) and school (Huebner et al. 2005) decreases with increasing age; this appears to indicate that the early adolescence is a detrimental stage in terms of life satisfaction. On the other hand, life satisfaction is a facilitator for adolescents to cope with the potential problems they may face during this period (Civitci and Topbasoglu 2015). Recent research has shown that supportive families, schools, peer groups and communities in early adolescence are many of the important indicators of mental health that should be developed in terms of psychosocial and academic harmony of adolescents in living within their family and school (Benson and Scales 2009; Hughes et al. 2008; Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn 2000; Li et al. 2010; Scales et al. 2006). According to this, it can be said, studies that support the developmental of adolescents’ life satisfaction are needed focussing on this stage.
It is stated that psychodrama applications and techniques are unique processes with beneficial and healing effects in solving adolescent problems and interpersonal conflicts (Bannister 1996; Hoey 2002). Psychodrama in adolescents, unlike adults, allows the development of new forms of relationships rather than repairing old relationships. It helps the child to acquire different, new and more appropriate roles in their social relationships (Gokler and Gokler Danısman 2011). Also, it can be said that psychodrama, which has methods that use dynamic games and imagination, is a helpful environment for adolescents’ social skills and life satisfaction. One aspect of psychodrama is that it improves the needs for adolescents to build relationships with their peers and develop their future patterns of behaviours. The work conducted with adolescents in Turkey aimed to improve their social skills and life satisfaction; they were generally non-disadvantaged groups (Abaci et al. 2015; Tagay et al. 2010; Catterall 2007; AnnGuli 2004; Cetin et al. 2002; Civitci, and Topbasoglu 2015; Bayrakci 2018; Mavruk-Ozbicer 2018). In the literature, there are no studies using psychodramatic approaches to increase social skills and life satisfaction of disadvantaged adolescents. In this respect, it is thought that this research can contribute a new and additional perspective to the literature. This study was conducted with adolescents living in a socioeconomically disadvantaged area of the EasternMediterranean Region of Turkey; as a consequence, this research differs from other studies. In summary, this study aimed to investigate the effect of psychodrama on “the social skills and life satisfaction of early adolescents who are disadvantaged”.

Method

In order to test the effectiveness of psychodrama, a quasi-experimental design with pre-test, post-test and with a control group is used. The study encompassed the period from March 2019 to June 2019. The control group was used to determine whether the change in social skills and life satisfaction changed without any intervention.

Participants

The experimental group consisted of 8 adolescents (5 girls, 3 boys) educated at 7th and 8th grades of middle school; a 10-session psychodrama was conducted under supervision. The control group consisted of 8 members (5 girls, 3 boys) educated at 7th and 8th grades of middle school. Members of the groups live in a socioeconomically disadvantaged area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Turkey in the province of Adana.

Procedure and measuring instruments

The announcement about the psychodrama experience group for adolescents was made by Adana Youth Center, which operates in the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Turkey. At the selection stage for members of the group, preliminary interviews were conducted, with the forty-five willing candidates, by the group therapist and the co-therapist. In the preliminary interviews, the exclusion criteria were looked for, including: chronic illness, regular medical medication use, mainstreaming students, taking part in an ongoing therapy process. The aim was to create the experimental and control groups, which were homogenous in terms of sex, age and grades. The study participants in both groups were evaluated twice with the help of The Children’s Self-Report Social Skills Scale and Brief Multidimensional Student’s Life Satisfaction Scale questionnaires. Adolescents in the experimental and control groups were informed of the the confidentiality of the study results. While reporting the results, it was stated that personal information about the participants would not be shared. Informed consent was obtained from the adolescents’ parents; the parents of the study participants were informed about the aim of the study, the psychodrama experience group and the hoped for results to be obtained.
Psychodrama was used to increase social skills and life satisfaction of adolescents. Each session of the adolescent psychodrama group consisted of warm-up, action and sharing stages. Psychodrama sessions were conducted once a week, on the same day and at the same time. According to the needs of the group (here and now), individual, mostly group games, role playing, doubling, role changing techniques were used. In the ten-session psychodrama process; mostly group games were most often used. The aims and themes of the group games consisted of adolescents’ self- perception, awareness and expression of emotions, exploring thoughts and behaviors, recognizing strengths and weaknesses, empathizing with others and showing the roles they experience every day and the social skills they use. In the psychodrama with adolescents; a protagonist game emerged. This involved a game in which the protagonist studied her perception of shame and self-confidence.
The sessions were conducted by the first (group leader) and second author (assistant leader) of this research. The group leader and assistant leader continue their psychodrama training at Abdülkadir Özbek Psychodrama Institute. The group leader received group supervision from his training group (called Succulents) during the sessions. In addition to group supervision, individual supervision was received from the Succulents training group trainer, and written feedback on the sessions from the assistant trainer and a member of the training group.
The measurement tools, used as pre-test and final tests, included: The Children’s Self-Report Social Skills Scale (Danielson and Phelps 2003) and Brief Multidimensional Student’s Life Satisfaction Scale (Seligson et al. 2005). Pre-test data was collected from the experimental group in the first session and post-test data in the last session. Data collected from the control group were also collected at 10-week intervals. No study was performed with the control group.
The Children’s Self-Report Social Skills Scale (CS – Danielson and Phelps 2003): CS is a 5-point Likert-type scale consisting of 21 items (1=Never, 5=Always), which was developed to measure the level of children’s social skills. The internal consistency test-retest coefficient of the scale was 0.74 and Cronbach alpha internal consistency was 0.96 (Danielson and Phelps 2003). Gencdogan (2008) made the adaptation of CS4 into Turkish. The internal consistency test-retest coefficient of the scale’s Turkish form was 0.82 and Cronbach alpha internal consistency was 0.94. As a result of the principal components analysis; social rules, likeability and social naivety are three subscales of CS.
Brief Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale (BMSLSS – Seligson et al. 2005): BMSLSS is a 7-point Likert-type scale consisting of 5 items (1= Terrible, 7=Great), which was developed to measure the level of the life satisfaction of children, family, friends, school, living environment and perceived life. The internal consistency coefficient of the scale was 0.75 (Seligson et al. 2005). Siyez and Kaya (2008) made the adaptation of BMSLSS into Turkish. As a result of the validity studies carried out on students aged between 9–16, it was found that the scale had a similar structure with the original form and the criterion-related validity was supported by negative relationships with depression and positive relationships with self-concept. The internal consistency coefficient of the Turkish form was 0.89 and item total score correlations were between 0.56 and 0.78. The test-retest reliability coefficient of the BMSLSS was found to be r= 0.82 at two-week intervals. In this study, Cronbach alpha internal consistency coefficient was found to be 0.73. The higher the score, the higher the satisfaction level of the person’s life.
In order to test the hypothesis of the research, firstly, it was examined whether the assumptions of parametric tests were met. In the analysis of the data, since the assumptions of parametric tests were not met, Mann-Whitney U test was used to determine the differences between the groups before and after the experiment and, Wilcoxon signed rankings test was used to determine whether the social skills and life satisfaction of the participants showed a significant difference before and after the experiment.

Findings

The Mann-Whitney test was used to examine whether the social skills and life satisfaction scores of the participants in the experimental group, participating in the psychodrama group, were significantly higher than those in the control group. Mann- Whitney test results are given in Table 1. It was concluded that there was no significant difference between the pre-test total scores of social skills (U= 20, p< 0.05) and life satisfaction (U= 22, p< 0.05) of the experimental and control groups. There was a significant difference in favour of the experimental group between the posttest total scores of the social skills of the experimental and control groups after the experiment, U= 4.50, p< 0.05; however, there was no significant difference between the post-test total life satisfaction scores after the experiment, U= 20.50, p< 0.05.
Wilcoxon signed-rank test was used before and after the psychodrama sessions to determine whether the social skills and life satisfaction levels of the experimental group changed. The results of the analysis (Table 2) showed that there was a significant difference between the scores of social skills adolescents participating in the study before and after the psychodrama experience group, z= –2.31, p< 0.05. Also, the scores of the adolescents participating in the study from the multidimensional life satisfaction scale showed a significant difference between the scores before and after the psychodrama experience group, z= –2.37, p< 0.05.
Considering the mean and sum of the different scores for both social skills and life satisfaction variables, the observed difference is in favour of positive ranks, post-test scores. According to these results, the “Who am I?” Psychodrama experience group had a significant effect on increasing social skills and life satisfaction of adolescents.

Discussion and results

In this study, the effect of psychodrama on adolescents’ social skills and life satisfaction was tested. The results demonstrate psychodrama has an effect on social skills and life satisfaction of adolescents.
Firstly, the findings of the research showed that having an experience of psychodrama has a significant effect on adolescents’ social skills. In middle school age, students discover others; it can be described as a period in which an individual can socialize with others (Tagay et al. 2010). In this period, social skills of adolescents play an important role in interpersonal relations and are the very behaviors that provide approval (Welsh and Bierman 1998). Since the group process is a shared experience, adolescents can understand both the impact of their own behaviour on others and how they are open to the impact of others (Chazan 2001; Reid 1999). This is especially useful for adolescents who are deprived and have insufficient capacity to express themselves (Gokler and Gokler Danısman 2011). Research shows that group-based practice has positive effects on adolescents’ social skills (Abaci et al. 2015; Tagay et al. 2010; Catterall 2007; AnnGuli 2004; Cetin et al. 2002). From this point of view, it can be said that psychodrama groups are effective in increasing the social skills of adolescents.
According to Moreno (1953); roles are not “self”, but “self” roles. Psychodrama aims to develop role repertoires by experiencing various roles in the group, to develop and enrich their self and to establish functional ties with others (Ozbek and Leutz 2011; Blatner 1993). For the adolescents being part of psychodrama, with peers, it can be said that it created a laboratory where they could try new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. For adolescents living in disadvantaged conditions, the group represented the first social space in which they could receive interpersonal feedback (Kraft 1980, 1983). The psychodrama group members developed advanced social skills; for example, being sensitive to others, helping, resolving conflicts, non-judgmental and empathy (Yalom 1995, 2003). In this study, it can be said that adolescents who participated in the psychodrama group had the opportunity to rehearse new behaviours, as their spontaneity developed, and had the opportunity to apply the new ways of communicating and new patterns of behaviour, testing them in the group and applying them in their relationships outside the group.
Adolescents in the psychodrama group not only experienced warm up, group and protagonist games, but also, they entered different roles through role playing, doubling, role changing and experienced spontaneous role playing. These psychodramatic games had positive changes in their social skills, thanks to the opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts through role feedback and experience sharing during the sharing stage. In the literature, four approaches (operant conditioning procedures, coaching, social learning approaches or cognitive-behavioural techniques) are used to increase to social skills in adolescents, (Matson et al. 1995). This study’s findings showed that psychodrama, as an experiential technique, is an approach that can be used to develop social skills of adolescents.
Secondly, the psychodrama group had a significant effect on the adolescents’ life satisfaction. Research has shown that life satisfaction is an important phenomenon in adolescence (Oberle et al. 2011; Valois et al. 2006; Goldbeck et al. 2007). There are many factors that affect life satisfaction (Proctor et al. 2009); one of these factors is the socio-economic level. Studies examining the relationship between socioeconomic level and life satisfaction of adolescents revealed that life satisfaction of adolescents, who are from a socio-economic disadvantaged group, is lower than other adolescents (Boes and Winkelmann 2010; Cummins 2003; Diener and Diener 1996; Gitmez and Morcol 1994; Gun and Bayraktar 2008; Howell and Howell 2008; Paxton et al. 2006; Shek 2005). Group-based methods, based in different theoretical and methodological methods, have positive effects on adolescents’ life satisfaction (Civitci and Topbasoglu 2015; Bayrakci 2018; Mavruk-Ozbicer 2018). The results of this study showed that psychodrama was effective in increasing life satisfaction levels of socio-economically disadvantaged adolescents.
Early adolescence is a transitional phase that has potential inherent difficulties, which interacts in social settings, shifting focus from family to peer groups, and their relationships, in the context of school and society, are gradually increasing (Eccles and Roeser 2009; Steinberg 2005; Wigfield et al. 2006). Difficulties in this transition phase can impact on the quality of life of adolescents and may lead to less satisfaction in their lives. Therefore, life satisfaction, which tends to decrease in early adolescence, is a variable that needs to be developed in terms of psychosocial and academic harmony in aspects of adolescents’ lives, such as, family and school (Benson and Scales 2009; Hughes et al. 2008; Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn, 2000; Li et al. 2010; Scales et al. 2006). This study demonstrates that, facilitating access to disadvantaged adolescents, through the Adana Youth Center, gives the opportunity to be part of the above mentioned harmony.

Conclusion

This study was an attempt to gain insight into the possibility of increasing social skills and life satisfaction of adolescents living in socioeconomically disadvantaged conditions by using psychodrama. The results of the study revealed the effectiveness of psychodrama in increasing social skills and life satisfaction of adolescents who are socio-economically disadvantaged. However, it is not yet clear how the results will change when the study is applied to middle and late adolescents who experience the same disadvantaged conditions. This study reveals that more research is needed to determine whether psychodrama is effective in increasing social skills and life satisfaction of these socio-economically disadvantaged middle and late adolescents. Living in socioeconomically disadvantaged conditions is considered an environmental risk factor for well-being. There are also individual and familial risk factors that affect the well-being of adolescents. However, in this study, the criteria was for participants who live only in socio-economically disadvantaged conditions, which is one of the environmental risk factors. In addition, the effectiveness of psychodrama can be tested in studies with adolescents having additional risk factors: individual factors (premature birth, negative life events, chronic diseases, etc.) and familial factors (such as parents’ illness or psychopathology, death of parents, divorce or living with a single parent, being a mother during adolescence).

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Information about the authors:

İrem Şahin Yoluk

She works as a research assistant at Çukurova University, Faculty of Education, Department of Psychological Counseling and Guidance. She completed his undergraduate education at Hacettepe University and received her master’s degree from Çukurova University Social Sciences Institute. She is still continuing her doctorate education at Çukurova University, Institute of Social Sciences. She continues his advanced psychodrama education at Abdulkadir Özbek Psychodrama Institute. Her areas of expertise are psychological first aid, child abuse, gender and group therapy work. She is a member of Ankara Psychodrama Association.

Ahmet Togay

He works as a research assistant doctor at Çukurova University, Faculty of Education, Department of Psychological Counseling and Guidance. He completed his undergraduate education at Ege University, received his master’s degree from Hacettepe University Institute of Educational Sciences and his doctorate from Çukurova University Institute of Social Sciences. He continues his advanced psychodrama education at Abdulkadir Özbek Psychodrama Institute. Her areas of expertise are emotion regulation, close relationships and group counseling. She is a member of Çukurova Arşaluys Kayır Psychodrama Association.

Bircan Kırlangıç Şimşek

After graduating from Ankara University, Faculty of Languages, History and Geography, Department of Psychology in 1984, firstly a manager and teacher in a private kindergarten in Ankara for one year, a psychologist for three years in Adana Kindergarten under SHÇEK, She retired after working as a psychologist in the Turkish Grand National Assembly Nursery for 17 years. She received training in areas such as psychodrama, interaction group therapy, client-driven therapy, family therapy, industrial psychology, psychometry, neuropsychology, child and adult psychopathology and applied them throughout her working life. After completing her psychodrama training, she became a psychodrama therapist and trainer. She led many training groups as a trainer. Between 2008 and 2020, She was the head of Abdülkadir Özbek Psychodrama Institute. She is the founding president of the Federation of Psychodrama Societies and the Ankara Psychodrama Association, and she was a member of FEPTO twice, the first time in 2008 and the second time in 2011. She served on the boards of the Turkish Psychological Association and the Turkish Group Psychotherapy Association. She still works as a trainer and supervisor, thesis advisor, chairman/member of the examination jury.