Behavioral disorders typically develop in childhood or at a young age. Some behavioral issues may be normal in children, those who have behavioral disorders develop chronic patterns of aggression, defiance, disruption, and hostility. Their behaviors cause problems at home, school, or at work. Children with behavioral disorders may develop personality disorders, depression, or bipolar disorder. Children with behavioral disorders may hurt themselves or others, get involved in criminal activities, lie, smoke, use alcohol or drugs, or engage in sexual activity. They also have a higher risk of suicide. The cause of behavioral disorders is not known, risk factors have been identified, such as the family history of mental illness or substance abuse, exposure to tobacco or illicit drugs during fetal development, abuse, stress, lack of supervision, and inconsistent but harsh discipline. Children with behavioral disorders may have another mental, emotional or behavioral disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Severe or long-standing behavioral disorders can be difficult to treat but early recognition can be helpful. Treatment often focuses on skill development for the child and parents. The involvement of a health care professional is often necessary.
All children have occasional behavioral issues. Problems that last more than six months may indicate that a behavioral disorder is present.
Some common symptoms of behavioral disorders include;
- Early sexual activity
- Open defiance of parents
- Self-destructive behaviors
- Skipping school
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Violent and aggressive acts, such as bullying or fightings
The specific cause of behavioral disorders is not known, but a number of factors may contribute to their development. Genetics may play a role, as behavioral disorders are more common in children who have a family history of mental illness or substance abuse. Environment factors, such as unstable home life, child abuse, lack of supervision, and inconsistent discipline, all seem to increase the risk of children developing behavioral disorders.
A number of factors increase the risk of developing behavioral disorders. Not all people with risk factors will develop behavioral disorders. Risk factors for behavioral disorders include:
- Child abuse
- Difficulty in interpreting the actions of others
- Family history of mental illness or substance abuse
- Fetal exposure to tobacco or drugs
- Inconsistent discipline
- Lack of supervision
- Parental abuse
- Poor social skills
- Stressful environment
- Unstable home life
Factors to reduce risk
A supportive, stable, and consistent home environment may be helpful in reducing your child’s risk for behavioral disorders. You may be able to lower your child’s risk of behavioral disorders by;
- Allowing your child to make concrete but limited decisions, such as choosing between a white or green shirt.
- Developing a clear system of rewards and punishments.
- Getting involved in your child’s daily activities.
- Providing your child a safe and appropriate environment for activities.
- Reducing sources of stress in environment.
- Setting clear expectations.
Treatment for behavioral disorders
Regular medical care for your child is an important first step in the treatment of behavioral disorders. This allows a health care professional to screen for and evaluate potential symptoms of a behavioral disorder. Treatment often focuses on
skill development for the child and parents. Children may benefit from cognitive development programs, social interaction skills training, and adaptive skills training. Parental skills training can also be beneficial. Educational, community and social programs are available. Psychological assessments and psychotherapy or other types of therapy can be helpful if the mood or other disorders are also present.