What are the causes of emotional and behavioural problems in children?

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According to a recent British government study, approximately 150,000 children in both mainstream and special schools suffer from behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD). It is believed that these complications are brought about by a range of external factors, including problems at home or at school. Genetic disorders can also affect the natural balance of a child’s neurological system and can either trigger or exacerbate dormant emotional and behavioural problems. In most cases, help can be provided to help children overcome their troubles and independently manage their emotions in a positive manner.

Genetic triggers

There is reason to believe that chemical imbalances, neurological problems and genetic conditions cause a variety of emotional and behavioural problems in children. There has been no conclusive data to come out of the studies in this area as of yet and it is unclear as to whether chemical issues cause behavioural problems in children or whether a child’s difficult behaviour is simply a symptom of the neurological imbalances he or she experiences when suffering from a genetic illness.

Home and school

Many experts believe that home, school and other social environments are one of the main causes of emotional and behavioural problems in children. Young people who are exposed to stressful or instable home situations (abusive and / or violent parents, drug abuse and parents suffering from depression) are liable to develop emotional or behavioural problems as a way of dealing with the stresses that they have to live through on a daily basis. In a similar way, when being bullied at school, or when made to feel like a failure by overly demanding teachers, many children develop unhealthy mechanisms to help them cope with their unbalanced and negative feelings. Sometimes this results in aggressive behaviour or a lack of motivation and at other times the child can become introverted and depressed.

Parenting styles

Incredibly strict and critical parents, who demand excellence from their children at all times and in all areas of life, can be just as damaging for a child’s development as those parents who never seem to enforce rules of any kind and allow their children to roam free. A child without limits and structure is at risk of developing emotional and behavioural problems. Children who are placed under a lot of stress from their parents to exceed expectations are also under the same risk.

Isolated traumatic events

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When children are part of a consistently traumatic environment (when they are bullied, when they live with drug-abusing parents, or when they seem to be unable to meet the high expectations of those in positions of authority around them), they can develop emotional and behavioural problems as a way of releasing the stress which builds up over time. However, children can also develop problems when being exposed to a particularly traumatic isolated event, like the death of a family member, the birth of a new baby or news of a divorce. Whenever possible, it’s best to take the time to prepare children for these large changes to their regular routine and to give them the chance to openly ask questions and discuss their fears and concerns. Time spent preparing a child for a possible traumatic event might help prevent the development of emotional and behavioural problems as a result in the future.

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