What Are the Causes of Disruptive Behaviour in Children?

All children exhibit disruptive behavior at some point in their lives and for various reasons 1. Parents who understand causation and the difference between normal and atypical behavior are best equipped to help their children learn to function well as adults. Types of disruptive behavior may happen from early childhood through adolescence.


At the Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative at the University of Illinois, biting behavior in infants and toddlers represents a normal developmental phase, as distressing and disruptive as it may be for others 1. Infants explore the world via their mouths, and toddlers may be communicating anger or frustration by biting. Giving an infant appropriate toys to bite, or a frozen bagel, may alleviate the situation. Telling toddlers, "Ow! that hurts!" and possibly involving them in making the victim feel better may also help.


At the Education Partnerships, Inc. (EPI), they have isolated a list of risk factors for disruptive behavior in school children and adolescents, one of which is a transitional time 1. Children who are not disruptive on a regular basis may exhibit disruptive behaviors during times of transition. For example, family moving, parental divorce, death in the family or major transitions in the home may cause disruptive behavior in school. Teachers whose students start exhibiting disruptive behavior may consider this possibility.

Modeling and Parenting

EPI also lists media violence and modeling as causes of disruptive behavior in children and adolescents 1. In addition to watching media violence, children who are exposed to physical aggression or spanked and beaten in the home are more likely to exhibit physical aggression and disruptive behavior in school 1. In the "Journal of Community Psychology," experts have correlated harsh treatment in the home with disruptive behavior in children. Therefore, modeling aggression seems to cause aggression in children, and showing warmth and compassion makes disruptive behavior less likely 1.

Disruptive Behavior Disorder

According to experts at School-Based Behavioral Health, Disruptive Behavior Disorder (DBD) may be diagnosed in children as early as 5 or 6 years of age. These children often have additional diagnoses, such as Oppositional Defiance Disorder, ADHD, and Conduct Disorder in teens. Causes of DBD are both neurological and environmental. Impairments to the child's brain may cause mental disorders. DBD is also linked to lack of loving care in the early years, maternal rejection, and harsh, severe punishments coupled with a lack of affection and warmth.