Behavioral Disorders in Toddlers

Knowing whether or not your toddler is displaying signs of a behavioral disorder is difficult. For parents, it’s always hard to tell if your little guy is in need of professional help, or is simply being your average 2-year-old. According to an article published by the Minnesota Parent Training and Information Center, the first signs of significant behavioral problems in very young children will usually come in the form of delays in regular development. Signs of developmental delays might be an inability to display pleasure or fear when appropriate, a lack of response to his surroundings or an oversensitivity to surroundings.

Get 'Em Early

Lauren S. Wakschlag, an associate professor at the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois in Chicago, says that the mental health disorders that are so often associated with older kids will commonly emerge earlier on in childhood. Based on an article published by NBC News, if bad behavioral traits can be identified earlier, children might be in a position to receive certain tools that will steer them away from eventual juvenile delinquency. According to the Better Health Channel, these tools may involve social training, parental encouragement and parental education 2.

What's the Difference?

Identifying behavioral problems in a toddler is more difficult than it might seem. Most toddlers will display types of negative behavior on a regular basis. Throwing tantrums, screaming and crying all characterize a 2-year-old’s everyday life. So how do you go about diagnosing behavioral disorders 1?

Observation Is the Key

The Minnesota Parent Training and Information Center suggests that careful observation is the only way to make the crucial diagnosis. Have a look at how your toddler interacts when alone, when with a caregiver, with family and in his general environment. Look out for continuous temper tantrums, the inability to form affectionate relationships with parents or caregivers, self-abusive behavior such as head-banging and scratching, an exclusion of normal activities and the tendency to hurt and injure others. Traits such as these can be a red flag and the cause for professional consultation.

A Clear Line

Wakschlag states that there is a clear line between a tempestuous toddler and a toddler with a behavioral disorder. This can be the difference between an angry outburst when denied a treat and a continuous stream of outbursts, often with an unclear motive. She also says that a toddler with disorders may suffer from a single bout of anger or frustration for over 20 minutes.

Wakschlag's Study

With a group of colleagues, Wakschlag devised an observational method to highlight the differences between the average toddler and a young one with a clinical disorder. By conducting a 50-minute observation, a range of toddlers were observed with their parents and then with a trained examiner. They were asked to carry out tasks that may lead to frustration, like sharing a toy. There was a clear difference, according to Wakschlag, between toddlers with and without disruptive behavioral disorders. These differences included length and frequency of outbursts and immediacy of refusal when asked to do something.