What does antisocial behavior in children look like? According to Psy Chi (PC), the International Honor Society in Psychology, antisocial behavior involves repeated infractions of social rules and norms. Causes of this behavior are complicated and can encompass a variety of factors. However, it's crucial to address this behavior -- if there has been no intervention after third grade, antisocial behavior can become permanent, according to the Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice (CECP).
Antisocial behavior is typically hostile and aggressive. These qualities can manifest themselves in diverse ways. Antisocial behavior includes habitual fighting, stealing, and bullying, as well as willful destruction of property, setting fires and cruelty to animals. You should begin to take this behavior seriously when incidents are frequent and intense -- as opposed to isolated incidents -- and begin to interfere with normal day-to-day functioning in school or at home, according to PC.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to a child's antisocial behavior. A learning disability can be extremely frustrating for a child to experience, and his acts of aggression allow him to vent that frustration. A study published by the American Psychological Association in the March 2012 issue of Psychological Bulletin found that children of incarcerated parents are more likely than their peers to engage in antisocial behavior. Other factors that can contribute to this behavior include harsh punishment from parents, family history of aggression or abuse and maternal alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy.
Antisocial behavior can be observed in children as early as the age of three or four, according to CECP. Some parents make the mistake of dismissing such behavior as simply another phase in childhood, so these children never get the help that they need. If left unchecked, this antisocial behavior will remain with the child and worsen as they enter puberty and mature into adulthood. According to CECP, this can lead to a greater risk of dropping out of school, substance abuse, and breaking the law, as well as higher hospitalization and mortality rates than their peers.
What to Do
If you notice your child exhibiting signs of antisocial behavior, address it as soon as possible. Reach out to your child's teachers and discuss ways to help your child manage his behavior effectively while at school. Other effective school-based strategies include mentoring, classes on conflict resolution and anger management and small group social skills discussions, according to CECP. Consider taking your child to see a mental health professional with experience in addressing childhood antisocial behavior.