Teaching junior- and senior-high school students to control their anger may be the key to stopping generational cycles of abuse.

That's the theory behind "Choices," a child abuse and neglect prevention program developed by the Salt Lake County Medical Society Auxiliary, working with the Utah Medical Association.The program began a few years ago when members of the auxiliary looked at research done by the Division of Family Services, with assistance from pediatricians at Primary Children's and the University of Utah hospitals.

"We assessed the needs of victims of abuse and tried to find a way to stem the problem," said Connie Bennion, assistant coordinator of the program.

"The program we take into high schools and junior high schools is designed to help young people be aware of child abuse and the problems with it, but it's also for learning skills for the future."

Skills include dealing with anger and recognizing signs that the young people's behavior is getting out of control, she said. "The important thing is to be able to get out this physical anger" in a more productive way.

Abuse can be a multigenerational cycle, something children learn from their parents and then pass on to their own children. "We can cut the problem significantly if we can teach appropriate behaviors to young people," Bennion said.

The two-day classes provide reinforcement for information in the schools' curriculums. Volunteer auxiliary members have worked with 11,000 students so far, visiting health classes every semester. This year, the volunteers, who are the spouses of physicians, are also beginning training so the program can expanded statewide.

Besides the child abuse prevention program, the Salt Lake County Medical Society Auxiliary sponsors a teen pregnancy prevention program, prints and distributes a breast cancer resource directory, helps with Ronald McDonald House volunteer coordination and sponsors health career days at schools.

For information about the auxiliary, call 266-6069.