Why do behavioural problems occur?
As children develop, it is common for them to face emotional and behavioural difficulties as they transition through their life stages. These difficulties may be due to naturally occurring events such as a child’s growth and development. Such increase in behaviour difficulties is age-appropriate and reflective of a child’s developmental stage. For example, the ‘terrible twos’ or the teenage struggle to develop independence. Other times, it may be due to stressful situations such as a loss of a loved one, separation of parents, new sibling, or a transitional change to a new city. An increase in behavioural difficulties in response to stressful situations is normal, and in most children, the behaviour fades over time.
What types of behavioural difficulties are there?
Generally, there are two main behavioural difficulties which children present with: externalizing and internalizing behaviour. Externalizing behaviours are aggressive or argumentative behaviours which may cause conflict for the child in school or at home. Internalizing behaviours are withdrawn behaviors where the child loses interest in things which was once enjoyable. It is important for parents to look out for both types of behavioural difficulties.
When should I seek help?
One of the main struggles facing parents of children with emotional or behavioural problems is deciding whether the child’s behaviour is age-appropriate and normal, or out of the norm and requiring additional professional attention. Generally, there are 4 main guidelines which parents can use to help families make the decision to seek a professional evaluation.
- Duration of Behaviour: How long has your child been displaying this behaviour? If the behaviour continues to persist after an extended period of time without subsiding. There is a possibility that there are additional emotional difficulties impacting the behaviour of the child.
- Intensity of Behaviour: How intense is the behaviour? Whilst it is normal for children to have behavioural difficulties such as temper tantrums, if the intensity of the behaviour is extreme, these is a possibility that additional support is required.
- Impact of Behaviour: How does the behaviour impact your child and family? Has the behaviour causing eating or sleeping difficulties? Is the behaviour dangerous to your child or other people?
- Age of the Child: Is your child’s response age-appropriate? Whilst children develop at different rates, extreme deviations from age-appropriate behaviour is a cause for concern.
If you have concerns about your child’s behaviour, it is important to seek professional support to get a better understanding of the underlying issues which may be impacting your child’s behaviour. This can be done through a consultation with a clinical or educational psychologist. Generally, research has shown that the earlier the child receives intervention, the better the outcome would be. Children who have untreated behavioural disorders may grow up to be dysfunctional adults.
Is there treatment available for such problems?
Treatment for behavioural difficulties is multifaceted and dependent on the particular disorder and factors contributing to the behaviour. There are several evidence based interventions which are often used to support children with behavioural difficulties, such as: parental education, family therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, social skills training, and anger management. Experts have found that early intervention that focuses on both the child and the family unit generally lead to best outcome. With support, children who have behavioural difficulties are able to cope and live fulfilled lives.