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Should I Be Worried About My Child’s Aggressive Behavior

When Victor rudely took the ball from Noah, he cared only about getting the ball, not paying attention to how his actions unintentionally hurt Noah. This is a common type of aggression among kids between two and a half to five years old. It is called “Instrumental Aggression” with its focus on a goal such as getting a favorite toy or a preferred space. The age of five is typically the peak period of physical aggression. With the development of self control management and verbal expression, the aggressive behavior usually turns from physical to verbal. At the age of six, those who enjoy games of “violence fantasy” seem to have more aggressive and violent behaviors when they get angry.

Aggressive behaviors tend to be quite different among boys versus girls. Boys’ aggression may seem more direct and frequent than is seen in girls. To the parents, girls tend to seem rather quiet or gentle, causing less trouble. One has to be more observant to see girls’ aggression. Girls tend to carry out relational or social aggression, which is more subtle and uses control, scandals, order or isolation to ruin someone’s reputation and relationships with her peers. The first signs might be making a face to or neglecting someone on purpose. In a show of social aggression, a girl might say “If you don’t give me that toy, you can NOT come to my birthday party.”

There are several reasons for children’s aggressive behaviors:

  • 1. Genetic causes
  • 2. Social environment
  • 3. Parents’ influence
  • 4. Media violence

The hazard of aggressive behavior is that once it becomes intentional, continuous and target-directed, it turns into bullying. Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, to intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. According to research in the U.S., there is at least one “bullying” event in 25% of primary schools, 42% of middle schools and 21% of high schools. Bullying is a dangerous action which is the direct cause of suicide, depression and phobia among kids.

Here are some typical symptoms of kids who might be diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): throwing temper tantrums, challenging others, debating, hostile or vindictive behaviors, frequently occurring from four to five years old and lasting to the age of eight. These kids may seem rebellious in school and frequently have an angry mood. They tend to hit or physically attack other kids and have few/no friends. Some ODD kids may also have Conduct Disorder (CD), which is a psychological disorder diagnosed in childhood or adolescence that presents itself through a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate norms are violated.

There are various therapy options for a child’s aggressive behavior, including family therapy, behavior therapy, art therapy, play therapy and drug therapy. Due to the limitation of language and understanding of kids, art therapy and play therapy seem to be rather safe, effective and welcoming for kids and parents. When a child displays a pattern of aggression, early family prevention and professional intervention are highly recommended.

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