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Behavioural disorders in children and how it affects them in later life


Behavioural disorders in children can seem hugely debilitating to them and how it effects  their lives both in the present and in the future. Did you know a staggering 9.4% of all children aged 2-17 years (approximately 6.1 million) have received a ADHD diagnosis? Alternatively, did you know that 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behaviour problem. Many people see children suffering with mental and behavioural disorders as a nuisance, this is the wrong attitude to have.

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Some ways to help understand disorders is to perceive the risk factors in children’s behavioural disorders. Some of these include:

  • Gender – boys are much more likely than girls to suffer from behavioral disorders. It is unclear if the cause is genetic or linked to socialization experiences.
  • Gestation and birth – difficult pregnancies, premature birth and low birth weight may contribute in some cases to the child’s problem behavior later in life.
  • Temperament – children who are difficult to manage, temperamental or aggressive from an early age are more likely to develop behavioral disorders later in life.
  • Family life – behavioral disorders are more likely in dysfunctional families. For example, a child is at increased risk in families where domestic violence, poverty, poor parenting skills or substance abuse are a problem.
  • Learning difficulties –problems with reading and writing are often associated with behavior problems. Children with speech delays may be at greater risk for developing social, emotional, or behavioral problems as adults
  • Intellectual disabilities – children with intellectual disabilities are twice as likely to have behavioral disorders.
  • Brain development – studies have shown that areas of the brain that control attention appear to be less active in children with ADHD.
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So, what do you think is the most common risk factor? A majority of people consider family life- e.g. a dysfunctional family- to be the main cause of a child’s problems. They simply put the child’s issues down to not having firm boundaries or strict enough parents, however this isn’t the case. Although it may be a contributing variable, using harsh parenting techniques on a child with severe ADHD will most likely end in disaster.

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Take Archie for example:

Archie was diagnosed with severe ADHD at age seven. Many influential characters in his life decided that he was only acting out due to slack boundaries and no reinforced routine in his life- ignoring the other risk factors contributing to his diagnosis. Archie was put under new stress and upset when vastly new boundaries and routines were put in place.  However, after time new protocols were put in place to help Archie and his family with dealing and living with his disorder. They consisted of:

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  • Parental education – for example, teaching parents how to communicate with and manage their children.
  • Family therapy – the entire family is helped to improve communication and problem-solving skills.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – to help the child to control their thoughts and behavior.
  • Social training – the child is taught important social skills, such as how to have a conversation or play cooperatively with others.
  • Anger management – the child is taught how to recognize the signs of their growing frustration and given a range of coping skills designed to defuse their anger and aggressive behavior. Relaxation techniques and stress management skills are also taught.
  • Support for associated problems – for example, a child with a learning difficulty will benefit from professional support.
  • Encouragement – many children with behavioral disorders experience repeated failures at school and in their interactions with others. Encouraging the child to excel in their particular talents (such as sport) can help to build self-esteem.
  • Medication – to help control impulsive behaviors.
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These protocols and techniques create a figurative net to support children with mental disorders. A large study in the United States, showed that carefully designed medication management and behavioral treatment for ADHD improved all measures of behavior in school and at home. Treatment is usually complex and depends on the particular disorder and factors contributing to it.

For children with autism spectrum disorder, research shows that education and behavioral interventions that begin as early as possible achieve the best results for most children. 

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Untreated children with behavioral disorders may grow up to be dysfunctional adults. Generally, the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome is likely to be.  Some behavioural disorders in children can lead to struggles and problems in later life. These problems may consist of: addiction, anxiety, depression, OCD and eating disorders. If childhood behavioural disorders are left untreated until later life, these problems could worsen. A result of a child who showed delays in language due to their behavioural disorder is that they were more likely to experience mental health problems at age 34 than children who did not experience such delays. These findings were more pronounced among men than women, the study shows. 

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An example of a common behavioral disorders is:

Oppositional defiant disorder

·         Around one in ten children under the age of 12 years are thought to have oppositional defiant disorder, with  boys outnumbering girls by two to one. Some of the typical behaviours of a child with ODD include:

  • ·         Easily angered, annoyed or irritated
  • ·         Frequent temper tantrums
  • ·         Argues frequently with adults, particularly the most familiar adults in their lives, such as parents
  • ·         Refuses to obey rules
  • ·         Seems to deliberately try to annoy or aggravate others
  • ·         Low self-esteem
  • ·         Low frustration threshold
  • ·         Seeks to blame others for any misfortunes or misdeeds.
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Signs of ODD generally begin during preschool years. Sometimes ODD may develop later, but almost always before the early teen years. These behaviors cause significant impairment with family, social activities, school and work. There's no known clear cause of oppositional defiant disorder. Contributing causes may be a combination of inherited and environmental factors, including:

  • Genetics — a child's natural disposition or temperament and possibly neurobiological differences in the way nerves and the brain function
  • Environment — problems with parenting that may involve a lack of supervision, inconsistent or harsh discipline, or abuse or neglect
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ODD may lead to problems such as:

  • Poor school and work performance
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Impulse control problems
  • Substance use disorder
  • Suicide

Many children and teens with ODD also have other mental health disorders, such as:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Conduct disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Learning and communication disorders
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Treating these other mental health disorders may help improve ODD symptoms. And it may be difficult to treat ODD if these other disorders are not evaluated and treated appropriately.

In conclusion, there are protocols and techniques that create a figurative net to support children with behavioral disorders and to help others understand how to help. If some disorders are left undiagnosed from childhood, this could impact their later life. Alternatively, if diagnosis happens in early life it can lead to more positive outcomes for the child and the surrounding people. 

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