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What Are the Causes of Bad Behavior in a Child?

author image Susan Ward
Susan Ward, M.A., writes about family, parenting, and children's mental health issues for multiple publications. She has been published in various special interest publications, both in print and online, in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the U.K. since 1989. She's also authored two books and numerous booklets.
What Are the Causes of Bad Behavior in a Child?
Bad behavior in children stems from multiple causes. Photo Credit: Image Source Pink/Image Source/Getty Images

Bad behavior in a child stems from a variety of environmental, emotional and biological issues in a child’s life. All children exhibit bad behavior from time to time due to the stresses of daily life. The Colorado State University Extension Service suggests that tantrums, one of the most common forms of bad child behavior, occur in 23 to 83 percent of all 2- to 4-year-olds. When negative behaviors continue or escalate, however, CSU suggests parents seek help.

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Life Changes

Children thrive on routine. When life changes occur--including a new sibling, starting or changing schools, death of a relative or even the addition of a new pet--children may display negative behaviors. An inability to verbalize their emotions or a fear of the unknown may cause children to make poor choices. A child may become loud, aggressive, defiant or noncompliant.

Bullying or Abuse

A bullied or abused child may be too scared to tell a parent or other trusted adult what is happening. Instead, the child may act out in verbally or physically assertive ways. Alternatively, he may become withdrawn and sullen or display his fears through sneaky, manipulative, passive-aggressive ways. Some behaviors, such as destructive behavior, insecurity and withdrawal, may be signs of emotional maltreatment, warns the American Humane Association.

Learning Disabilities

A child may struggle to read, comprehend math or understand directions without anyone realizing there is a learning disability causing the challenges. Until the disability is noticed and diagnosed, the child may act out because of feelings of inadequacy and ineptitude. A child might be defiant and non-compliant about completing schoolwork or chores.

Mental Health Issues

Children suffering from bipolar, ADHD or depression may exhibit a variety of bad behaviors, including tantrums, lack of focus, aggression and defiance. Due to a combination of genetic or environmental issues, a child may develop mental health problems that affect her ability to function appropriately within her family, school and neighborhood. For example, during a bipolar manic phase, a child may appear agitated, need very little sleep and show unusually poor judgment, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Poor Parenting

Parents, who through lack of knowledge or the stresses of life, struggle to implement consistent rules and consequences, may create misbehaving children. According to Colorado State University, some of the parenting issues that create temper tantrums in children include inconsistent discipline, criticizing too much, parents being too protective or neglectful and a child not having enough love and attention from his mother and father.

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