Theory Development

3. Casual Complexity

Exercise 1

Review a brief case study and select which option is the most likely causal explanation.

The goal is for user to understand how to identify causal relationships and patterns. In this exercise, the user will review a brief case study and select which option is the most likely causal explanation. The answers are not right or wrong, but include possibly correct paths which provide remediation. Most Likely is the most correct answer.

Case Study:
Jim was an active outdoorsy 12 year old but loved to play video games with violent content, and enjoyed action movies. He lived with his parents and younger brother. Jim had just started middle school so he went from being among the oldest in school to being one of the youngest. His family was not well off, but not poor either. He started sneaking out and smoking with some older friends he met at school. He was recently disciplined for pushing another kid in class and talking back to a teacher. He and his brother (who was still in elementary school) seemed to be fighting more frequently. Jim’s guidance counselor met with his parents to discuss the cause of his seemingly increased aggressive behavior.

Select from the links below the most likely causal pathway for his aggression?

  • Going to a new school
  • Smoking
  • Video games and TV
  • Relative family income


Going to a new school: Most Likely
Remediation: Fears about going to a new school and low confidence could lead to smoking and hanging out with older tougher kids which could lead to violence. It provides the most likely place to intervene coping with change.

Smoking: Not a Cause
Remediation: Smoking is not a cause of aggression in any direct sense, but it might be associated with a mechanism that is causal. Many other factors contribute more directly. Smoking may be a part of a the causal process (hanging out with older kids leads to risky behavior which may in turn lead to other deviant behaviors such as aggression).

Video games and TV: Unlikely.
Remediation: Video games and TV may serve as an outlet for aggression for Jim or may be a source, but from this case study it is difficult to directly link video games to aggression.

Relative family income: Possible Cause.
Remediation: Jim may feel poor in his new school with different friends and may be looking to stand out by hanging out with older kids who influence his behavior. Income would not be a direct cause, but may lead to choices about friends which may lead to aggressive behavior. Lower SES than the norm for the school is a possible cause for Jim’s increased aggression if the new school makes him feel more poor and less confident than in his previous school.