Behavioral Problems

Behavioral Problems of Children and Adolescents


Behavioral Problems Of Children Resent research suggest that 13-22% of children and teens have some form of behavioral problems. Unfortunately, the percentage is doubled in households with lower socioeconomic status due to additional life stressors.


Resent studies also suggest that 70-80% of parents have concerns about their child's behavior when they visit their physician for routine or acute care. But only small number of parents actually bring these concerns to the physician unless they are directly asked about behavior issues.


Usually parents express concern regarding common behaviors in their children that become problematic such as getting dressed, eating, toilet habits, problems with social interactions, aggression, hostility and withdrawal. In some cases behavioral problems are affected by child's developmental issues such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). Most parents do the right thing in trying to resolve problems with their children's behavior, but first they need to understand what is normal in terms of child development and what is abnormal. Parents also need to understand why the child is engaging in a particular maladaptive behavior.


At first parents should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are the consequences are for the child engaging in the disruptive behavior?
  • What rewards and reinforcements does the child receive because of the disruptive behavior?
  • How consistent is the intervention that the parents are using to deal with the maladaptive behavior?

Behavioral problems should be addressed in the early stages of child's development. The outcome is much better when the problem is addressed at the younger age and when parents are more consistent in implementing helpful interventions. The severity of behavioral problems get worse in adolescence because they are bigger, smarter and have had more time to develop their maladaptive behaviors.

Parents who start addressing problematic behavior of their children earlier could protect them from experiencing a negative impact on their development, help them enjoy the things they should be enjoying at each age, and avoid any possible negative impact with their peers and at school. Lets take a look at possible causes for behavioral problems in children and adolescents:

Familial Causes of Behavioral Problems

  • Lack of parental attention
  • Poor familial relationships
  • Poor parenting practices (hostility and aggression towards child)
  • Parents with a history of their own delinquency
  • Parents suffering from psychiatric problems
  • Parents with a low frustration tolerance (anger management issues)

Disorders Related to Behavioral Problems or Coexisting Conditions:

  • Anxiety problems
  • Emotional problems
  • Body image issues
  • Mental retardation
  • Learning disorders
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Speech and language disorders
  • Tourettes and tic disorders
  • Major depression (marked irritability; sleep and appetite changes; thoughts of death and dying; expresses wishes to harm self or others either verbally, in written form, or through drawings; isolation from family and friends; lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities; sudden drop in grades; attention deficit difficulties

    • Other Related Causes:

    • History of physical, sexual or emotional abuse
    • Self-esteem issues
    • Academic problems
    • Poor Social skills
    • Unresolved anger
    • Adjustment difficulties to major life stressors including:

      • death of a loved one
      • divorce
      • birth of a newborn
      • financial problems in the family
      • relocation

It is very important to rule out coexisting conditions and problems listed above before categorizing a child with a behavioral problem. For many children, teens, and even adults it is much easier to express anger than underlying, deeper emotions. Furthermore , many families encourage open expression of anger by modeling aggression through yelling and physical violence. Children often repeat what they see. Similarly, other families cultivate avoidance of conflict, where children are taught to cover true feelings or not express negative feelings at all. Both behavioral models are unhealthy for children since they do not have sufficient skills to express their negative feelings.


Specific Cautions:

Some serious behavioral problems ask for immediate attention despite of the underlying cause. If your child displays any of these behaviors, it is possible that he or she could be diagnosed with Conduct Disorder:

  • Repeated absence from school
  • Repeated disobedience of household rules
  • Repeatedly expressing verbal/physical aggression to people and to animals with little or no remorse
  • Repeated attempts to run away from home
  • Frequent lies to avoid obligations and benefit themselves
  • Deliberately engages in fire setting with intention of causing serious damage
  • Intentionally destroys others’ property
  • Often bullies, threatens or intimidates peers, siblings
  • Often starts physical fights with other kids
  • Has used a weapon that can cause serious harm to others
  • Has been physically cruel or torturing to animals or people
  • Has stolen while confronting a victim
  • Has forced someone into sexual activity


Treatment Options

It is very important to understand that the symptoms listed above serve only as a guide. Parents should be looking for professional help of a trained licensed professional who will be able to appropriately assess you child with behavioral problems and find an appropriate treatment plan to fit their needs.

The following treatment options for children and adolescents who have behavioral problems were found helpful include:

  • Individual therapy to help the child learn rules, limits and ways to express their feelings more appropriately
  • Family therapy to assist in building better parent / child relationships and appropriate parenting skills
  • A thorough physical exam to rule out medical causes of aggression and behavioral problems
  • Sleep management education
  • Social skills groups
  • Specialized school interventions
  • Institutional interventions

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