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Child Behavioral Therapy| Behavioral Disorders in Children

It is normal for young children to misbehave or throw tantrums, and for teenagers to undergo a “rebellious” stage. Occurrences of teenage rebellion or little children acting out in public can be common and a part of their growth and development. However, when these actions become a pattern of disruptive behaviors, they may be a cause for concern. Knowing the signs and symptoms of behavioral problems in children can help parents understand their children better, and seek child behavioral therapy as an early intervention. So, their behavioral problems do not continue into adulthood.

Are you looking for “child behavioral therapy near me” to help with your child’s behavioral problems?

Let us, at Bregman Medical Group, help you! Located in Coral Gables, Florida, Bregman Medical Group is a team of psychologists and mental health professionals who have helped families and individuals overcome their problems through therapy, including child behavioral therapy. For your convenience, we also offer telepsychiatry (online psychiatry) services for new and existing patients.

Untreated behavioral issues in children can develop into more serious problems when they turn into adults. If you think your child has a behavioral disorder, we can help you.

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What Are Behavioral Disorders in Children?

Child behavioral disorders are conditions that involve frequent disruptive and defiant behaviors in children that are outside the normal limits of their age. Some of the most common behavioral disorders are Conduct Disorder (CD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

Disruptive behaviors stem from children’s lack of self-control and a lack of regulation of their emotions. Their behavioral problems cause impairment with how they function and how they get along with others.

Most Common Behavior Disorders

Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is a type of mental health condition in children that involves a long-term pattern of a violation of rules by a child. Symptoms of conduct disorder can include antisocial behavior such as aggression or being cruel towards other people and animals. It can also include theft, lying, vandalism, or the destruction of property. Conduct disorder is one of the most common childhood psychiatric disorders that may persist into adolescence if proper intervention is not done.

Because children with conduct disorder are usually involved in disagreements and fights with others, they have difficulty making friends, and their behavior can lead to disciplinary actions from the school, their parents, or even in the juvenile justice system - the reason why conduct disorder is also described as juvenile delinquency.


It is important to note that it is part of normal development for young kids to act out. However, a mental health condition may be possible when they repeatedly and blatantly disregard rules and have a pattern of violent behavior towards others that lasts for months. A psychologist or mental health professional will also check that the behavior of the child is not caused by his or her home or school environment, but rather, the desire to hurt others comes intrinsically.

Symptoms of Conduct Disorder

Here are some of the behavioral symptoms displayed by a child with conduct disorder:

  • Several instances of running away from home, skipping classes, and/or staying out even during late hours at night

  • Being aggressive towards people and animals, which includes causing physical harm to them with a lack of remorse or guilt for doing so

  • Having frequent fights with others that they initiated

  • Destruction of property

  • Disregarding the law such as engaging in theft, or breaking and entering, being deceitful


Conduct disorder usually occurs before a child turns 13 years of age.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is diagnosed in children before they reach 8 years old and can persist through adolescence (but not later than around 12 years of age). In order to be diagnosed with ODD and not the typical “challenging” behavior sometimes displayed by children, the ODD symptoms must persist for at least six months.


Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

These are the ODD symptoms that parents can look out for:

  • Incessant temper tantrums

  • Always getting into arguments with others, especially with authority figures

  • Disregard for rules

  • Being angry and irritable most of the time

  • Always annoying others, but are also easily annoyed with others

  • Always blames others for their mistakes

  • Being harsh and vindictive towards others

Now, all children have displayed these behaviors at one point in their development, but what sets a child with ODD apart is how extreme and long-standing these symptoms last. Because of their chronic oppositional behaviors, children and adolescents with Oppositional defiant disorder find it hard to develop healthy friendships with other children, as well as develop good family relationships. They often run into problems in school and at home, and their behaviors take a toll on the parent-child connection. Their behavioral problems also pose as a hindrance to their overall healthy functioning.

It is important for you as a parent to seek help when you observe ODD symptoms in your child since a child with ODD has a higher risk of developing conduct disorder during adolescence if not treated properly.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

As the name suggests, a child with IED displays intermittent explosive symptoms such as throwing tantrums, sudden eruptions of violent and aggressive behaviors, and getting into fights with others disregarding the consequences of their actions. Their explosive/impulsive behaviors frequently happen and without any warning, but often last for only 30 minutes or less.

Children may be diagnosed with IED when they are at least 6 years old, and the symptoms can persist even when they become adults.

ADHD

ADHD is in and of itself a different mental health condition involving problems with the neurodevelopmental aspect of children and adolescents. However, because children with ADHD are more prone to impulsivity, overactivity, and/or inattention, they also usually display behavioral problems.

In a study conducted about the prevalence of ADHD in US children, it is estimated that 8.4% of children in the country have ADHD, and 2.5% of adults. ADHD is usually diagnosed in school-aged children, and they have greater chances of having Oppositional defiant disorder.

Have any questions on behavioral issues? You can speak with our psychologist or psychiatrist if you’d like to learn more about children’s behavioral issues.

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What Causes Behavioral Issues in Children?

It is hard for psychologists to pinpoint one sole cause for behavioral issues in children because they can be a result of a combination of different factors. A child with behavioral problems may also have another mental or emotional disorder present, and there are also studies that show behavioral problems to be related to developmental delay. Below are risk factors that psychologists believe contribute to children’s behavioral problems.

Risk Factors for Behavioral Disorders in Children

The risk factors that contribute to a child’s behavioral problems may include:

  • Family history of mental or emotional disorders and of substance abuse

  • Lack of attention

  • Experiencing difficulties in the home and school environment

  • A fetal’s exposure to drugs and tobacco during a mother’s pregnancy may also be a factor for the child to develop a behavior disorder

  • Studies show that young boys and males are more likely to develop behavioral issues

  • Authoritarian parenting

  • Experiencing abuse as a child

  • Having poor social skills

  • Having a lack of stability in their home life

How Are Behavioral Problems in Children Diagnosed?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DMS-5) from the APA is used in diagnosing behavioral disorders in children.


Children’s behavioral disorders can be complex because there are different contributing factors to them, and the symptoms for the disorders may also overlap. Let’s say a child displaying ODD symptoms can also possibly have ADHD, anxiety, or depression, and they may also deal with many problems at home contributing to their behavior.

For this reason, many healthcare professionals such as a pediatrician, a child psychologist, or a psychiatrist may work in conjunction to diagnose behavioral problems in children. The psychologist or psychiatrist may ask in-depth questions by interviewing the child and their authority figures (parents, teachers, etc.), and they may also make use of standardized tests/ questionnaires.

Lastly, before diagnosing a child with a behavioral disorder, it is important for psychologists to identify other factors that may be causing the child to act out at a certain period of time such as experiencing stress at home. It is possible that their behavior is a way of responding to the stress they feel rather than having intrinsic motivation for their behavioral issues.

Possible events that may cause behavior problems in children

  • Major life changes - your child may act out as a response to overwhelming life changes that disrupted their routine. These changes can include migrating to another country, moving to a new school, or the birth of a new baby.

  • Reinforcing problematic behaviors - it is possible that your child’s behavior issues may be a learned response to how you handle them. For example, a parent may give their child candy just to stop the child’s tantrum. The child may expect that he gets a reward every time he acts out in public, so the behavior is reinforced.

  • Feelings of neglect/ Lack of attention from parents or caregivers - your child may act out problem behaviors simply because they know they’ll get your attention when they do. Parents usually pay more attention to children when they are misbehaving or throwing tantrums, but this may reinforce your child to repeat the behavior as a way to get your attention.

  • Sudden changes in parents’ behaviors (e.g. become overly strict with rules at home) - being overly strict in disciplining children without giving them a space to respond may result in children harboring ill feelings towards their parents and are more likely to develop behavior problems

How Do We Treat Child Behavior Disorders?

The treatment will be dependent on what disruptive behaviors the child may have, and may involve a mixture of different treatments such as counseling services, parental education, and medication. When treating children’s behavioral disorders, early intervention by parents, therapists, and psychologists can make a big difference because behavioral disorders have a tendency to continue into adulthood.  

Here are examples of therapy and other treatments involved in child behavior disorders:

Child Behavioral Therapy

Child behavior therapy aims to help parents and children become aware of their positive and negative behaviors. There are different behavioral therapies and techniques, but the main focus of behavioral therapists is always to provide positive reinforcement to help strengthen desired behaviors, as well as to reduce or eliminate negative behaviors.

Family Therapy

Since child behavioral disorders can take a toll on family connections, family therapy can be a good choice to help the whole family develop better ways of communicating and problem-solving.

Behavioral Parent Training


Since parents are a child’s number one authority figure and are the ones with whom they spend the most time, it is important to educate parents with the proper skills in handling a child showing a behavioral disorder. Behavioral parent training is also sometimes called Parent Management Training, and it is dedicated to teaching parents how to deal with their child’s behavioral problems in order to lessen their negative interactions and improve the quality of their relationship.

Sometimes, parents don’t realize that they have been rewarding their child’s problematic behaviors. Parent programs will help them identify their actions that may contribute to a child continuing to display behavior disorder symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is like behavioral therapy but with a cognitive aspect. In CBT, the therapist helps the child to manage their thoughts better, so they can in turn better manage their behaviors.

Anger Management Skills

Children and teens with behavioral symptoms also benefit from anger management sessions that teach them how to manage and express their anger in healthy ways.


Medication for Behavioral Disorders

Medication is used when a child’s behavioral disorder is still persistent despite having regular psychosocial treatment. Medication is also usually paired with therapy to help manage the behavioral symptoms rather than taken as a lone treatment for children’s behavioral disorders. For example, the stimulant Adderall is usually prescribed by psychiatrists to children with ADHD and behavior symptoms.


Meet Dr. Arthur Bregman of Bregman Medical Group

Dr. Arthur Bregman, or Dr. B, as long-time patients call him, has over 40 years of clinical experience including dealing with children with behavior disorders. If you are looking for a child behavioral therapist, Dr. Bregman of Bregman Medical Group can provide you with the professional help you need to manage your child’s behavior concerns.


Request a one-on-one appointment with Dr. Bregman today!

By BregmanMD | December 13, 2021 | Mental Health

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