Violent Behavior in Children....concern regarding the frequency of violent behavior among children and adolescents - Bright Tots - Information on child development -
Violent Behavior in Children
There is a great concern regarding the frequency of violent behavior among children and adolescents. This complicated and
disturbing problem needs to be approached cautiously by parents, caregivers and teachers. Children as young as preschool can
participate in violence. Violent behavior in a child at any age always needs to be taken seriously. Children who display explosive
or unruly behavior are the most difficult for school staff and parents to oversee.

Children with violent behaviors are repeatedly violent or confrontational and perhaps disobedient, start fights, push, kick, hit or
grab, throw things, verbally threaten classmates or staff, or destroy property. Some children respond to verbal prompts to stop
and end the outbursts. Others melt down with no obvious trigger and, once they lose control, cannot be reached until they are
finished with their tirade. Usually, these children do not manage transitions or unexpected change well and have low tolerance
for frustration.

A variety of reasons have been linked to childhood aggression, such as whether the parents are separated at the time of birth,
low income, whether the mother has a history of antisocial behavior and physical abuse in the family. Being able to identify the
children most at risk could lead to better intervention and prevention. Learning how not to be violent depends on both genetic
and environmental factors.

Causes of Violent Behavior

The underlying cause of explosive/unruly behavior is the development of combined, emotion-charged ideas, feelings, memories,
and impulses that are deliberately suppressed and that escalate to abnormal, habitual and compulsive behavior. The first and
essential step to changing behavior is to determine why the child chooses violence or aggression in the first place. Ultimately, the
behavior is achieving what the child feels he/she desires and it is important to understand why. The child may feel frustrated or
angry, avoiding a task, pain or fear, seeking attention, planning revenge, or imitating the behavior of others.

Research on child violence has focused on the influences of biology, on social and economic causes, on trauma, on personality,
and on temperament. Research scientists attempt to understand the situations and influences that lead to children’s violent
behavior. Emotional problems, social conflict, the availability of weapons and the effects of alcohol and drugs contribute to
violent and homicidal behavior by children. There are steps to recognize and reduce the risk of children’s destructive and violent
behaviors. The risk for violent and homicidal behavior can be difficult to recognize in very young children. Prior to adolescence,
the major violence features are: that the child is excessively irritable, moody, and has an unpredictable temperament, has
problems in socialization, and has experienced severe or repeated emotional trauma such as child neglect.

The child also may be displaying symptoms of a psychiatric disorder. Explosive and unruly behavior is often linked to a
psychiatric diagnosis, such as bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD, Tourette syndrome, Asperger’s disorder,
and depression. To identify the cause as well as triggers for the behavior, and to determine if a more thorough psychiatric
evaluation is needed speak with a physician.

Violent Behaviors

Behavior in children and adolescents can include a wide range of behaviors: explosive temper tantrums, physical aggression,
fighting, threats or attempts to hurt others (including homicidal thoughts), use of weapons, cruelty toward animals, fire setting,
intentional destruction of property and vandalism.

•        Intense anger
•        Frequent loss of temper or outbursts
•        Extreme irritability
•        Extreme impulsiveness
•        Becoming easily frustrated

Early Warning Signs

•        Fire starting
•        Cruelty to animals
•        Bed wetting
•        Socially isolated, outcast or withdrawn
•        Emotions and behavior are easily influenced by peers
•        Victimized or treated badly by peers

Increases Risk of Violent Behavior

Numerous research studies have concluded that a complex interaction or combination of factors leads to an increased risk of
violent behavior in children and adolescents. These risks include:

•        Being the victim of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse
•        Exposure to violence in the home and/or community
•        Genetic (family heredity)
•        Exposure to violence on TV, movies, or video games
•        Use of drugs and/or alcohol
•        Presence of firearms in home
•        Brain damage from head injury

A combination of stressful family socioeconomic factors contribute to violent behavior such as poverty, severe deprivation,
marital breakup, single parenting, unemployment, loss of support from extended family.

Immediate Risk or Danger

•        Recently assaulted another child or was recently assaulted.
•        Brought a weapon to a place or situation that is inappropriate.
•        Has or may have a weapon that is potentially lethal.
•        Destructive, threatening, violent gestures or statements.
•        Has or may have a plan for destructive, violent or suicidal behavior.
•        Saying or implying they are suicidal.

Treatment for Violent Behavior in Children

Early treatment by a professional can often help in controlling violent behavior. The goals of treatment typically center on helping
the child to: learn how to control his/her anger; express anger and frustrations in appropriate ways; be responsible for his/her
actions; and accept consequences. In addition, family conflicts, school problems, and community concerns must be addressed.

Research studies have shown that a lot of the violent behavior can be decreased or even prevented if the above risk factors are
significantly reduced or eliminated. Most importantly, efforts should be aimed at considerably lowering the exposure of children
and adolescents to violence in the home, community, and television. Clearly, violence leads to violence.
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Violent Behavior in Children
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