UNDERSTANDING VIOLENT BEHAVIOR
Children and Adolescents
There is a great concern about the incidence of violent behavior among
children and adolescents. This complex and troubling issue needs to
be carefully understood by parents, teachers, and other adults.
Children as young as preschoolers can show violent behavior. Parents
and other adults who witness the behavior may be concerned, however,
they often hope that the young child will "grow out of it."
Violent behavior in a child at any age always needs to be taken seriously.
It should not be dismissed as "just a phase they're going through!"
Range of Violent Behavior:
Violent 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.
Factors Which Increase 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 factors include:
- Previous aggressive or violent behavior
- Being the victim of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse
- Exposure to violence in the home and/or community
- Genetic (family heredity) factors
- Exposure to violence in media (TV, movies, etc.)
- Use of drugs and/or alcohol Presence of firearms in home
- Combination of stressful family socioeconomic factors (poverty,
severe deprivation, marital breakup, single parenting, unemployment,
loss of support from extended family)
- Brain damage from head injury
What are the "warning signs" for
violent behavior in children?
Children who have several risk factors and show the following behaviors
should be carefully evaluated:
- Intense anger
- Frequent loss of temper or blow-ups
- Extreme irritability
- Extreme impulsiveness
- Becoming easily frustrated
Parents and teachers should be careful not to minimize these behaviors
What can be done if a child shows violent
Whenever a parent or other adult is concerned, they should immediately
arrange for a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health
professional. Early treatment by a professional can often help. The
goals of treatment typically focus 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 issues must
Can anything prevent violent behavior in
Research studies have shown that much violent behavior can be decreased
or even prevented if the above risk factors are significantly reduced
or eliminated. Most importantly, efforts should be directed at dramatically
decreasing the exposure of children and adolescents to violence in the
home, community, and through the media. Clearly, violence leads to violence.
In addition, the following strategies can lessen or prevent violent
- Prevention of child abuse (use of programs such as parent training,
family support programs, etc.)
- Sex education and parenting programs for adolescents
- Early intervention programs for violent youngsters
- Monitoring child's viewing of violence on TV/videos/movies
Daycare.com would like to thank American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry for this information in striving
to make daycare and childcare a more productive and efficient service.
You can contact them at: 3615 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.
20016-3007 voice: 202-966-7300 fax: 202-966-2891.