Causes of aggressive behavior of children

Aggressive behavior is detected in children of all ages. Primarily serves as a way to express 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 goal – to get toys, food, to attract the attention of parents, to prove strength, significance, to subjugate others. 

The more often the desired is achieved, the stronger the aggressiveness in behavior is fixed, becoming a quality of character. The prevalence of this phenomenon is difficult to determine, because every child during the life shows aggression. In boys, it occurs earlier, is open in nature. In girls, it manifests itself indirectly.

Causes of aggressive behavior of children

The causes of aggression are diverse – the accumulated emotional stress, the inability to express in words insult, lack of attention of adults, the desire to get someone else’s toy, show the power to peers. Often children harm others or themselves, because they feel helpless, sad, offended, but they cannot understand their own state, they do not have communication skills to solve the problem.

There are the following groups of causes of aggressiveness:

  • Family relationships. The formation of aggression is promoted by the demonstration of cruelty, violence, disrespect, frequent conflicts in the family, and the 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.
  • Personality Features. The instability of the emotional state manifests anger, irritation. Through aggression, fear, fatigue, feeling unwell is expressed, guilt is compensated, and low self-esteem.
  • Features of the nervous system. Children with an unbalanced weak type of central nervous system tend to aggression. They transfer loads worse, are less resistant to physical and psychological discomfort.
  • Socio-biological factors. The severity of aggressiveness is determined by the sex of the child, role expectations, social status. Boys are often inspired by the idea that a man should be able to fight, “give back”.
  • Situational factors. Emotional lability of childhood is manifested by outbursts of irritation, anger with random exposure to external adverse events. A bad school assessment, the need to do homework, physical discomfort caused by hunger, a tiresome trip can provoke a child.


The physiological basis of children’s aggressiveness is an imbalance of excitation-inhibition of the central nervous system, the functional immaturity of individual brain structures responsible for controlling emotions and behavior. When exposed to a stimulus, excitement prevails, the process of inhibition “delays”. The psychological base of children’s aggressiveness is low self-regulation ability, lack of developed communication skills, dependence on adults, unstable self-esteem. Children’s aggression – a way to relieve tension with emotional, mental stress, feeling unwell. Purposeful aggressive behavior is focused on getting what you want, protecting your own interests.


Developed many classifications of aggressive behavior. The direction of action distinguishes hetero-aggression – causing damage to others, and auto – aggression – causing harm to oneself. According to the etiological basis, reactive aggression, arising as a reaction to external factors, and spontaneous, motivated by internal impulses, is distinguished. Of practical importance is the classification in the form of manifestation:

  • Expressive aggression. Demonstration methods – intonation, facial expressions, gestures, postures. Diagnostic complex option. Aggressive acts are not recognized or denied by the child.
  • Verbal aggression. Realized through words – insults, threats, swearing. The most common option among girls schoolgirls.
  • Physical aggression. The damage is inflicted with the use of physical force. This form is common among young children, schoolchildren (boys).
Symptoms of aggressive behavior in children

Basic manifestations of aggression are observed in infants under one year old. Children 1-3 years old conflicts arise due to the appropriation of toys, other personal items. Children bite, push, fight, throw objects, spit, scream. Attempts by parents to nip the child’s reactions with punishments aggravate the situation. In preschool children, the physical expression of aggression is less common, since speech is actively developed, its communicative function is mastered. There is a growing need for communication, but self-centeredness, inability to accept someone else’s point of view, and objectively assessing the situation of interaction hinders productive interaction. There are misunderstandings, offenses, causing verbal aggression – abuse, insults, threats.

Younger students have a basic level of self-control, capable of suppressing aggression as a way of expressing resentment, displeasure, and fear. At the same time, they actively use it to protect their interests, to defend a point of view. Gender features of aggressiveness are beginning to be determined. The boys act openly, use physical force – they fight, put up steps, “click” on the forehead. Girls choose indirect and verbal ways – ridicule, misappropriation of nicknames, gossip, disregard, silence. In both sexes, signs of low self-esteem and depression are determined.

In adolescence, aggression arises as a result of hormonal adjustment and accompanying this period of emotional lability, complication of social contacts. There is a need to prove its importance, strength, relevance. The aggression is either suppressed, replaced by productive activities, or takes extreme forms – boys and girls fight, injure their opponents, attempt suicide .


Frequent aggressiveness, supported by education, unfavorable family situation is fixed in the qualities of the child’s personality. By adolescence, characterological features are formed on the basis of anger, bitterness, resentment. Accentuation develops, psychopathy – personality disorders with a predominance of aggression. The risk of social maladjustment, deviant behavior, offenses increases. When auto-aggression children harm themselves, they attempt suicide.


Diagnosis of aggressive behavior of children is relevant with excessive frequency, severity of manifestations. The decision to go to a psychiatrist, a psychologist is formed by the parents themselves or after the recommendation of teachers. The basis of the diagnostic process is a clinical conversation. The doctor listens to complaints, clarifies the history, further studies the characteristics of the kindergarten, school. Objective research includes the use of special psychodiagnostic methods:

  • Questionnaires, observation. Parents, teachers are invited to answer a series of questions / statements about the characteristics of the child’s behavior. Observation is carried out according to a scheme that includes a number of criteria. The results allow to establish the form of aggression, its severity, causes.
  • Personal questionnaires. Used to screen adolescents. Identify the presence of aggressiveness in the overall structure of the individual, ways of its compensation. Common methods – Leonhard-Shmishek questionnaire, pathocharacterological diagnostic questionnaire (Licko).
  • Pictorial tests. According to the peculiarities of the drawings, the severity of symptoms, causes, unconscious emotions are determined. The tests used are a non-existent animal, cactus, man.
  • Interpretation tests. They relate to the projective methods, reveal unconscious, hidden experiences of the child. The survey is carried out using the Rosenzweig Test of frustration, a Hand test (hand test).
Treatment of aggressive behavior in children

With severe aggression requires correction methods of psychotherapy. The use of drugs is justified when anger, impulsivity, anger are symptoms of a mental disorder (psychopathy, acute psychosis). It is impossible to cure aggressiveness forever; it will occur in a child in certain life situations. The task of psychologists, psychotherapists is to help resolve personal problems, train them in adequate ways to express feelings, and resolve conflict situations. Common correction methods include:

  • Game exercises . Presented by express methods of safe expression of aggression. The child is invited to throw out anger, irritation, anger without harm to others. Used ball games, bulk materials, water, “leaves of anger.”
  • Communication trainings. Group work allows the child to develop effective communication strategies, ways of expressing emotions, upholding his position without harming others. Children receive feedback (reaction of participants), analyze successes, mistakes with the psychotherapist.
  • Relaxation classes . Aimed at reducing anxiety, emotional tension – factors that increase the risk of outbreaks of aggressiveness. Children learn to restore deep breathing, achieve muscle relaxation, switch attention.
Prognosis and prevention

The aggressive behavior of children is successfully corrected with the joint efforts of parents, teachers, and psychologists. The prognosis is in most cases favorable. To prevent aggression as a preferred way of interaction, it is necessary to adhere to a harmonious upbringing style, demonstrate ways to resolve conflicts peacefully, treat your child with respect, and allow anger to appear in a safe manner. It is not necessary to focus on minor aggressive actions. When discussing manifestations of aggressiveness, it is important to talk about actions, but not about personal qualities (“you acted cruelly”, not “you are cruel”).

The aggressive behavior of children is verbal and physical activity aimed at harming their own health, people, animals, external objects. 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). Diagnosed by a psychiatrist, a psychologist. The study is conducted by the method of conversation, observation, used questionnaires, questionnaires, projective tests. Treatment includes group, individual psychotherapy – learning how to control emotions, to safely express anger.

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