Children can be difficult creatures. And thus, parenting can be a challenging job. If you are a parent, you must be aware of the tantrums and acting out. There is a wide spectrum of reasons why we see our kids react or behave negatively. It could be a busy day, an upset stomach, a demand for more candy, or some imaginary reason. However, for some minors, the episode of a tantrum may not be a temporary phase in childhood. We are talking about behavioral disorders in children.
You may be surprised to read that behavioral issues in children are highly common. In fact, according to a study in India, nearly 22.7% of school-going children in the state of Uttar Pradesh alone suffer from emotional, behavioral, and/or cognitive issues.
Globally, about 20% of young children experience some form of impairment as a result of mental disorders.
It is high time that the mental health of children is recognized and treated with dignity. This article aims as elaborating on common behavior disorders in kids, signs and symptoms, causes, treatment options, and more.
What Is Meant By Behavioral Disorders In Children?
Children are supposed to be naughty, playful, unpredictable, and impulsive to an extent. It is a regular norm that children may misbehave or act up time and again.
However, if a child’s behavior continues to get difficult and is not in line with the norm for their age, they may be experiencing a disorder.
Child Psychology experts have remained cautious about using the term disorder for children. It is because sometimes, signs of behavioral issues in children overlap with their temporary developmental phase.
Behavioral problems in children are also known as Disruptive Behavioral Disorders. These issues should be dealt with at the earliest possible stage. If left untreated, a child may grow up to be a highly anxious, depressed adult with several other mental health issues.
Common Behavioral Disorders In Children
Because of the proximity of behavioral problems in children and short-term issues, it is not convenient to diagnose a child as young as 5. Keeping this in mind, mental health experts have categorized behavioral issues in children into different types. These are:
1. Conduct Disorder
Conduct disorder is one of the most common behavioral disorders in children. Children who live with conduct disorder have above normal levels of behaviors. It is when their behavior is not in line with what is considered socially acceptable. These types of attitudes are often looked upon as bad by adults.
Common symptoms of conduct disorder include:
- Destructive behavior
- Starting fights
- Lack of empathy
- Criminal tendencies
- Not following rules
- Being deceitful
- Harming others
- Intimidating others
- Lying often
- Sexual behavior at a very young age
2. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
As the name goes, one of the most common behavioral disorders in children is the one relating to attention and hyperactivity. Children going through ADHD can struggle with their ability to concentrate. A child who lives with ADHD often reflects highly reckless behaviors.
Common symptoms of ADHD are –
- Trouble in focusing
- Forgetting constantly
- Being distracted easily
- Inability to stay still
3. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
The meaning of this disorder can be found within the term itself. The oppositional quality of this disorder tells that a child suffering from ODD often remains in opposition to authorities.
A child who experiences ODD can show frequent angry outbursts and arguments with guardians or authoritative figures. ODD is considered a top among common behavioral disorders in children.
Symptoms of ODD –
- Anger issues in early childhood
- Temper tantrums
- Low self-esteem
- Making arguments with elders
- Upsetting others
- Being annoyed with others
- Being harsh while talking to others
- Not following rules
These 17 Anger Management Activities for Kids That Works can help you with ODD.
4. Anxiety Disorder
An anxiety disorder another one of the behavioral disorders in children. This type of disorder is observed when a child undergoes excessive amounts of worry and/or fear. An anxiety disorder is when the feeling of anxiousness disrupts everyday life and routine. It can affect how children perform a certain task.
There are several other types of anxiety disorders. Common symptoms of anxiety disorders are:
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty in falling asleep
- Difficulty in focusing
As melancholic as it sounds, depression can affect a person at any age. Several studies have noted that young adults and children can experience depression due to specific circumstantial problems.
Common symptoms of depression include:
- Loss of interest
- Difficulty in completing routine tasks
- Not enjoying anything
- Changes in sleep patterns
6. Learning Disorders
A learning disorder is one where a child is unable to understand, grasp, and express concepts. These children see, hear, and understand things differently. Children who live with learning disorders are not dumb or lazy, their brains only behave differently as compared to others. There are various types of learning disabilities including language disorder, dyslexia, and more.
Common symptoms of learning disorders are:
- Difficulty in reading
- Problem in pronunciation
- Difficulty in following directions
- Not liking reading and writing
There are other types of behavioral problems in children as well.
What Causes Behavioral Disorders In Children?
There is no single reason why a child experiences disruptive behavior issues. Several factors contribute to the development of these conditions. Some of the factors are described in the following:
- Biological factors – Malnutrition, brain damage, genes, physical illness, etc.
- Environmental factors – Upsetting situations at home, bad relationships among family members, poor social attitude, etc.
What Are The Signs Of Behavioral Issues In Children?
There is a diverse group of behavioral problems in kids. As parents and guardians, it may be difficult to recognize when and at which area of life is a child facing difficulties.
Common behavioral disorders in kids can manifest in the following ways:
- Psychosocial disorders – Under this category, a child may show struggle with expressing emotions, feel sad constantly, behave aggressively, have problems in keeping up with studies among other issues.
- Habit disorders – Some children may develop certain habits as a response to behavior issues. They divert their stress towards these habits, such as – thumb sucking, nail-biting, tics, breathing difficulty, hair pulling, headbanging, and more.
- Sleeping problems – Behavioral problems may manifest in sleep troubles. Some children may sleep longer while others may have trouble maintaining sleep.
Do Parents Have Anything To Do With These Disorders?
You may feel bad to know the answer but, Yes. Parenting is a life-long task and it is a job that goes beyond the ordinary. The environment at home, parent’s relationships with kids, and with each other, their health and well-being, and parent’s expectations from their children are a few things to name that impact children’s behaviors.
Parents are expected to monitor their kid’s growth and conduct but a very strict nature can do more harm than good. According to experts, certain patterns of parenting styles can impact a child.
Some of the parenting issues include:
- Communication problems – Your child should be able to converse with you about anything. If not, you may need to work on your interaction with the child.
- Unrealistic expectations – How parents treat their child is somehow proportional to how they hold their expectations. If a child is pressured, directly or indirectly, to fulfill all expectations from parents, they may develop a behavioral disorder.
- Negative response cycle – When your child misbehaves, you can scold them. But a repeated negative response to a behavior can raise a pattern that goes from parents to the child and vice-versa. Parents have to recognize and alter their responses to their child’s behavioral problems.
As a caregiver, if you are trying to understand what kind of parent you are, here’s a list of parenting styles:
- Authoritative parenting – being very authoritative and strict as a parent but giving the child to input their concerns.
- Permissive parenting – not being very mindful about discipline, lenient caring, being more like friends.
- Uninvolved parenting – not caring about communication, ignoring kids.
Who Can Get A Behavioral Issue?
Any child is capable of developing a behavioral disorder if proper parenting is not offered or if a dreadful circumstance occurs. However, there are some children more prone than others to get a disorder of this type.
Risk factors of a behavioral disorder are:
- Gender – Boys are more likely to get a behavior disorder, compared to girls.
- Problems during birth – If the mother of the child faces difficulty during pregnancy or birth, a child may have more odds of getting a disorder.
- Family – If a child is raised in an emotionally distant or dysfunctional family, they may have behavior issues.
- Development of brain – Studies has discovered that children who suffer from ADHD have areas in the brain that are less active than others.
Can A Behavior Disorder Be Treated?
Fortunately, Yes. Behavioral problems in children can be treated at early intervention and with the help of a professional healthcare provider.
Different types of disorders are treated with different approaches. Some require medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, anger management, behavior modifying techniques, encouragement, and more.
A collective team of a pediatrician, psychologists, general practitioners, and more may work together to help the child and the parent.
You can also read another article on the 17 Anger Management Activities for Kids That Works
Tips For Parents:
- Identify triggers that affect a child’s conduct.
- Establish rules.
- Discuss which behaviors are appreciated and which are not.
- Encourage children when they are behaving rightly.
- Have a healthy conversation.
- Minimize your anger as well.
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