Aggressive behavior of children is verbal and physical activity aimed at harming their own health, people, animals, external objects. It is based on negative emotions, the desire to harm. It is manifested by disobedience, irritability, cruelty, insults, slander, threats, refusals to communicate, acts of violence (bites, blows). It is diagnosed by a psychiatrist, psychologist. The research is carried out by the method of conversation, observation, questionnaires, questionnaires, projective tests are used. Treatment includes group, individual psychotherapy – training in ways to control emotions, safe expression of anger.
Aggressive behavior is detected in children of all ages. It primarily serves as a way of expressing negative emotions – irritation, anger, anger. Observing the result of such behavior, the child evaluates its usefulness. For the second time, he demonstrates aggression with a specific purpose – to get toys, food, attract the attention of parents, prove strength, significance, subdue others. The more often the desired is achieved, the more aggressiveness in behavior is firmly fixed, becoming a quality of character. It is difficult to determine the prevalence of this phenomenon, since every child shows aggression during his life. In boys, it occurs earlier, has an open character. In girls, it manifests itself indirectly.
The causes of aggression are diverse – accumulated emotional tension, inability to express resentment in words, lack of adult attention, the desire to get someone else’s toy, to show strength to peers. Often children harm others or themselves because they feel helplessness, sadness, resentment, but they cannot understand their own condition, do not have the communication skills to solve the problem. The following groups of causes of aggressiveness are distinguished:
- Family relations. The formation of aggression is facilitated by the demonstration of cruelty, violence, disrespect, frequent conflicts in the family, indifference of parents. The child copies the behavior of the mother, the father – argues, provokes fights, openly shows anger, disobedience in order to attract attention.
- Personal characteristics. The instability of the emotional state is manifested by bitterness, irritation. Through aggression, fear, fatigue, poor health is expressed, guilt, low self-esteem is compensated.
- Features of the nervous system. Children with an unbalanced weak type of the central nervous system are prone to aggression. They are less tolerant of stress, less resistant to the effects of physical and psychological discomfort.
- Socio-biological factors. The severity of aggressiveness is determined by the child’s gender, role expectations, and social status. Boys are often inspired with the idea that a man should be able to fight, “fight back”.
- Situational factors. Emotional lability of childhood is manifested by outbursts of irritation, anger with accidental exposure to external adverse events. A child can be provoked by a poor school grade, the need to do homework, physical discomfort caused by hunger, a tedious trip.
The physiological basis of children’s aggressiveness is an imbalance of the processes of excitation-inhibition of the central nervous system, functional immaturity of individual brain structures responsible for controlling emotions and behavior. When exposed to an irritant, arousal prevails, the process of inhibition is “delayed”. The psychological basis of children’s aggressiveness is low self-regulation ability, lack of developed communication skills, dependence on adults, unstable self-esteem. Child aggression is a way of relieving stress during emotional, mental stress, poor health. Purposeful aggressive behavior is focused on getting what you want, protecting your own interests.
Many classifications of aggressive behavior have been developed. According to the direction of actions, there is a distinction between heteroaggression – causing damage to others, and autoaggression – harming oneself. According to the etiological feature, reactive aggression is distinguished, which occurs as a reaction to external factors, and spontaneous, motivated by internal impulses. Of practical importance is the classification according to the form of manifestation:
- Expressive aggression. Methods of demonstration – intonation, facial expressions, gestures, poses. A diagnostically difficult option. Aggressive acts are not recognized or denied by the child.
- Verbal aggression. It is implemented through words – insults, threats, swearing. The most common option among schoolgirls.
- Physical aggression. The damage is inflicted with the use of physical force. This form is common among young children, schoolchildren (boys).
Basic manifestations of aggression are observed in infants up to a year old. Kids 1-3 years old have conflicts due to the appropriation of toys and other personal belongings. Children bite, push, fight, throw objects, spit, scream. Attempts by parents to stop the child’s reactions with punishments aggravate the situation. In preschoolers, the physical expression of aggression is observed less often, since speech is actively developing, its communicative function is being mastered.
The need for communication is growing, but productive interaction is hindered by egocentricity, inability to accept someone else’s point of view, objectively assess the situation of interaction. There are misunderstandings, insults that generate verbal aggression – swearing, insults, threats. Younger students have a basic level of self-control, are able to suppress aggression as a way of expressing resentment, displeasure, fear.
At the same time, they actively use it to protect their interests and defend their point of view. The gender characteristics of aggressiveness are beginning to be determined. Boys act openly, use physical force – they fight, trip up, “click” on the forehead. Girls choose indirect and verbal ways – ridicule, naming, gossip, ignoring, silence. Representatives of both sexes have signs of low self-esteem, depression.
In adolescence, aggressiveness occurs as a result of hormonal restructuring and accompanying emotional lability, complication of social contacts. There is a need to prove their importance, strength, relevance. Aggression is either suppressed, replaced by productive activities, or takes extreme forms – boys and girls fight, injure rivals, commit suicide attempts.
Frequent aggressiveness, reinforced by upbringing, a dysfunctional family environment, is fixed in the qualities of the child’s personality. By adolescence, characterological traits are formed on the basis of anger, bitterness, resentment. Accentuations and psychopathies develop – personality disorders with a predominance of aggression. The risk of social maladaptation, deviant behavior, and offenses increases. With autoaggression, children harm themselves, attempt suicide.
Diagnosis of aggressive behavior of children is relevant with excessive frequency, severity of manifestations. The decision to consult a psychiatrist, psychologist is formed by parents independently or after the recommendation of teachers. The basis of the diagnostic process is a clinical conversation. The doctor listens to complaints, finds out anamnesis, additionally studies characteristics from kindergarten, school. Objective research includes the use of special psychodiagnostic methods:
- Questionnaires, observation. Parents and teachers are invited to answer a number of questions / statements about the peculiarities of the child’s behavior. The observation is carried out according to a scheme that includes a number of criteria. The results allow us to establish the form of aggression, its severity, and causes.
- Personality questionnaires. They are used for the examination of adolescents. They reveal the presence of aggressiveness in the general structure of the personality, ways to compensate for it. Common methods are the Leonhard-Shmishek questionnaire, the pathoharacterological diagnostic questionnaire (Lichko).
- Drawing tests. According to the features of the drawings, the severity of symptoms, causes, unconscious emotions are determined. Non-existent animal, Cactus, Human tests are used.
- Interpretation tests. They relate to projective methods, reveal the unconscious, hidden experiences of the child. The examination is carried out using the Rosenzweig Frustration Reaction Test, Hand test (hand test).
Treatment of aggressive behavior of children
With pronounced aggression, correction by psychotherapy methods is required. The use of medications is justified when anger, impulsivity, bitterness are symptoms of a mental disorder (psychopathy, acute psychosis). It is impossible to cure aggression forever, it will occur in a child in certain life situations. The task of psychologists, psychotherapists is to help solve personal problems, to teach adequate ways of expressing feelings, resolving conflict situations. Common methods of correction include:
- Game exercises. Presented by express methods of safe expression of aggression. The child is invited to vent anger, irritation, anger without harm to others. Games with a ball, loose materials, water, “anger sheets” are used.
- Communication trainings. Group work allows the child to develop effective communication strategies, ways of expressing emotions, defending his position without prejudice to others. Children receive feedback (reaction of participants), analyze successes, mistakes with a psychotherapist.
- Relaxation classes. They are aimed at reducing anxiety, emotional tension – factors that increase the risk of outbursts of aggression. Children are taught to restore deep breathing, achieve muscle relaxation, and switch attention.
Prognosis and prevention
Aggressive behavior of children is successfully corrected with the joint efforts of parents, teachers, psychologists. The prognosis is favorable in most cases. In order to prevent the consolidation of aggression as the preferred method of interaction, it is necessary to adhere to a harmonious parenting style, demonstrate ways to resolve conflicts peacefully, treat the child with respect, and allow manifestations of anger in a safe form. It is not necessary to focus on minor aggressive actions. When discussing aggressiveness, it is important to talk about actions, but not about personal qualities (“you acted cruelly”, not “you are cruel”).