Behavior Disorders In Children

Information on the types of behaviour disorders, their causes and symptoms so far identified and what to look for in children

A young person is said to have a behaviour disorder when he or she demonstrates behaviour that is noticeably different from that expected in the school or community. This can also be stated in simpler terms as a child who is not doing what adults want him to do at a particular time. There are interchangeable terms for behaviour disorders- conduct disorders, emotional disorders, emotional disturbances. A conduct disorder is also described as a complicated group of behavioural and emotional problems in youngsters. Children with this disorder often seem to be behaving in different and socially unacceptable ways. They are often describes as bad or delinquent.

Like learning disabilities, behaviour disorders are hard to diagnose. There are no physical symptoms or discrepancies in the body that are observable or measurable. Behaviour disorders are therefore identified by observing behaviour patterns in the child over a period of time. If a child displays some of the following behaviours he may therefore be labeled with a behaviour disorder:

1. Aggression to people and animals. Some people may say that the child is wicked to others and cruel to animals.

2. Destruction of property- defacing school desks, graffiti, vandalism, etc.

3. Little empathy and concern for others. Shows no feelings when another is in pain, nor remorse for unkind deeds.

4. Takes no responsibility for behaviour. Also lies, cheats and steals easily.

5. Disregards rules and regulations. May be openly defiant.

In addition to these general symptoms of a behaviour disorder, there are other symptoms characteristic of more specific behaviour disorders such as ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar disorder and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder).

Young people with ODD appear to have very short tempers. They are quick to argue with others. They are very touchy. They seem to be very angry and resentful. They display vindictive or spiteful behaviour. Generally they are very difficult to be around.

The Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder is demonstrated by repeated and persistent thought or impulses that are unwanted and cause severe discomfort in the person. For example, a child may constantly imagine that there are monsters lurking everywhere. The behaviour is compulsive when it is repeated persistently without satisfaction, e.g. counting numbers, washing hands all the time.

Bipolar Disorder (used to be referred to as manic-depressive) is characterized by moodiness. It involves mood swings form "highs" inflated self-esteem, excessive indulgence in pleasurable activities that could lead to pain to "lows" (depression or irritability, lethargy).

ADHD- this is the classic inattentive, can't-sit-still behaviours. The attention span is very short and the behaviour is impulsive at times. The child also seems quite distracted and forgetful.

Behaviour disorders come from brain injury, child abuse, trauma, etc. There have also been indications that it could be a genetic disorder. The behaviour therefore is an involuntary response to these experiences and the child should not be blamed for his behaviour. Since the child has problems controlling his behaviour it stands to reason that his performance in school will be affected. A child with a behaviour disorder will feel bad about himself and that low self-esteem will be further worsened by the adults around him who do not treat his condition with understanding and willingness to help. Too often the child is blamed for his unacceptable behaviour and instead of being supported to deal with it he is castigated and alienated. There is, therefore, a thin line between behvaiour disorder, emotional disorders and learning disabilities. Or maybe one leads to another.

Behaviour disorders are best dealt with by behaviour therapy and psychotherapy. But, as with learning disabilities, accurate diagnosis is important and this must be over a length of time. It is also important in trying to modify the behaviour to be clear about what is the behaviour you are expecting. Make sure it is a rational expectation. For example, expecting a three year old to sit quietly through a long church service may not be reasonable, or demanding that a six year old does extra home work after a long day of school and extra curricular activities may be stretching the child's concentration and attention too far. Since some behaviour disorders stem from traumatic life experiences or brain injury, therapy should include helping the child to resolve and heal emotionally from the experience. The behaviour could be remedied through emotional healing. In other words when a human being is emotionally healthy, that is, can be aware of his intelligence and zest for life and his loving connectedness to other human beings, he automatically "behaves" rationally.

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