Behavioural problems

Little boy peeping past a balloon

What are behavioural problems in children?

Most young children will show behavioural issues to an extent during their development, which are to be expected especially in association with changes in their surroundings, such as starting a new school or preschool or the birth of a sibling. However, some children may display behavioural problems that do not improve, despite their parent or guardian's best efforts.

What are examples of early behaviour and childhood disorders?

It is rare for a child under the age of five to receive a behavioural disorder diagnosis. They may, however, display early warning signs of the following:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Oppositional deficit disorder (ODD) - which is characterised by hostile, irritable and uncooperative attitudes in children, perhaps by being spiteful on purpose. 
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Learning difficulties
  • Conduct disorders

It is more common that these clinical disorders will pass and is only a temporary behavioural problem. In some cases, professional help is needed, such as a guidance counsellor who can help teach your child how to cope with any stressors. 

What causes behavioural disorder?

There is a variety of causes for behavioural disorder, such as disability, malnutrition, brain damage or genetic factors. External influences that are related to the child's family and home life may contribute to behaviours associated with the disorder. These could be factors such as divorced parents, an unhealthy or inconsistent discipline style or a poor attitude towards school and education.

What are the symptoms of behavioural disorder?

The emotional symptoms may include:

  • Being easily annoyed
  • Anger
  • Blaming others
  • Breaking rules
  • Not following authority
  • Throwing temper tantrums
  • Difficulty in handling frustration

How is behavioural disorder diagnosed?

A medical professional can evaluate your child by performing tests called functional behavioural assessments, which are based on techniques and strategies that are used to identify and address behavioural problems in children. 

How is it treated?

If left untreated, behavioural disorder can lead to serious mental health issues so an assessment and treatment plan is crucial for your child's development.

A specialist will devise a treatment plan for your individual circumstance. It may be that talking therapy, known as cognitive behavioural therapy, combined with medications will help.

There are many medications available for behavioural problems and the type of drug that will be prescribed depends on the specific condition being treated. For example, Ritalin is used to treat ADHD whereas those with depression and anxiety may require antidepressants. 

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