Auto-aggressive behavior occurs in a situation of maladjustment to social conditions. In a child, it is formed in violation of family relationships. For adolescents, the sphere of external social contacts becomes significant, therefore the source of auto-destructive tendencies are conflicts with peers and teachers.
The main causes of auto-aggression include:
- Psychological features. Children who are sensitive to the emotional state of others, have low self-esteem, are closed, unsociable, prone to depressed mood are subject to autodestructive behavior. They are distinguished by the willingness to share the problems and pain of a loved one with insufficient care for their own body.
- Punishments The child can not respond to the aggression of an adult. The nearest most accessible object, which can throw out the accumulated resentment, indignation, anger becomes his own body.
- Conflicts of parents. Quarrels, shouts, abuse, use of violence in the relationship of mother and father affect the mental state of the patient. There is a feeling of fear, helplessness, a desire to stand up for the offended parent. The inability to express emotions, to influence the conflict leads to auto-aggression.
- Lack of attention. Self-harming is a way of manipulating parents. Concerned about the child’s behavior, they show more care and love.
- High requirements. Expectations, requests from adults form a patient’s low self-esteem, fear of failure, guilt. Autoagression becomes a way of self-punishment for mistakes, poor grades in school.
- Autoagression of parents. Children copy the behavior of adults. Following the mother, the child refuses to eat, closes in his own room, depriving himself of socializing and having fun, imitating his father, calls himself a loser, a fool.
Autoagression in a child arises on the basis of intrapersonal conflict in situations of social maladjustment. It is the result of redirecting destructive activity from an external object to a self or a body. The role of an object is often a parent or other adult on whom the child’s well-being depends.
Two opposite tendencies collide – to harm another person, splashing out all negative emotions (anger, rage, resentment), or keep friendly relations, while continuing to receive resources (love, care).
Usually the choice is made unconsciously, because of their psychological characteristics, the child prefers to transfer destructive tendencies to himself. Such mental protection eliminates worries about broken relationships, lack of resources, loss of social position. Auto-aggression is a pathological method of maintaining psychological and physiological balance in conditions of maladaptation.
Child aggression classification
The simplest and most common option is to divide children’s auto-aggression into physical and verbal. The first is typical for boys, accompanied by harm to the body. The second is a psychological punishment, realized through self-accusation, self-humiliation.
According to the substantive criterion, the following forms of autoaggression are distinguished:
- Self-harm. It can be observed at all stages of mental development. It is expressed in self-inflicted bruises, cuts, pricks (punctures), bites, tattoos.
- Eating disorders. Often develop in adolescents. They are manifested by refusal to eat, impulsive gluttony, eating foods that provoke a rash, pain and heaviness in the stomach, obesity.
- Chemical addiction Formed in younger students, adolescents. This form of auto-aggression includes smoking, drug addiction, substance abuse, and alcoholism.
- Fanatical behavior. The child behaves according to the rules of the group to the detriment of their own desires and needs. Example: participation in religious cults, movements of sports fans.
- Autistic behavior. Autodestruction is expressed through a restriction in communication, fun and interesting pastime. The child closes, moves away from others.
- Victim behavior. Patient’s actions are aimed at increasing the risk of committing a crime. It is implemented through walks at night, provoking actions of another person that can cause harm.
- Suicidal behavior An extreme form of auto-aggression, the purpose of which is to deprive oneself of life. It happens open and masked (passion for extreme sports).
Symptoms of aggression in a child
Children of early and preschool age impulsively inflict damage to themselves: they hit the head with their hands, scratch, pinch, bite, pull out hair, hit the wall. The reaction develops against the background of emotional arousal immediately after punishment or prohibition by an adult. Differs in involuntary – the child is not able to delay, ponder, choose the method of realization of aggression, switch to other emotions.
In the older preschool age, self-destructive actions begin to separate from the provoking situation. The child blames himself for the development of various conflict situations, for example, the emergence of a quarrel between the parents. Self-punishment occurs in thought, physical actions are hidden from outsiders.
Younger students use physical damage as a method of manipulation by adults. For example, they hurt themselves to make their mother feel sorry for not going to school. In the adolescent period, certain types of auto-aggression become conditions for obtaining recognition by peers and parents. Girls limit the amount of food, believing that attractiveness depends on harmony. Young men begin to smoke, drink alcohol to prove their independence and maturity.
Suicidal attempts are a way of punishing oneself and at the same time solving all problems or aiming at attracting maximum attention. Often, adolescents cuts their wrists, climb high structures of unfinished buildings, walk along the edge of a cliff, ride bicycles and motorcycles at high speed without using protection.
Autoagression, being fixed as a mechanism for responding to complex social situations, hinders the formation of productive ways to resolve conflicts, narrows the variability of interactions with people. The child, and subsequently an adult, does not have the skills of conducting a conversation, does not know how to express and defend his own opinion, avoids the negative reaction of others, restricting behavior.
Anxious-suspicious, autistic character traits are formed, problems of adaptation arise in the new team. In extreme cases, the inability to socialize becomes a complication: young people interrupt their studies, cannot build relationships with the opposite sex, and create families.
Diagnosis of autoagression in a child
Autoagression in a child is clearly manifested from 2-3 years of age, reactions occur directly in a conflict situation, their identification is not difficult. The older a child becomes, the more abstract, diverse, and delayed in time is destructive behavior. The teenager is often not aware, denies the presence of auto-aggression, disadaptation. The diagnosis is performed by a psychiatrist and a psychologist. Methods of examination are selected individually depending on the age of the patient.
- Clinical conversation. When examining children under 6-7 years old, a survey of parents is the most informative diagnostic method. From 7-9 years the doctor additionally talks to the child. The questions are focused on identifying autoaggression symptoms, family and school relationships, hobbies, and hobbies.
- Questionnaires. Two types of tests are used: those aimed at determining auto-aggression and complex methods of personality research. The first are economical, but not informative enough. The second ones are laborious, but allow us to estimate the intensity of aggressive tendencies, their significance in the general structure of character. The methods used for the diagnosis of aggression by C. Spielberger, the Bass-Darki questionnaire, the questionnaire “Auto- and heteroagression” by E. P. Il’ina, the pathocharacterologic diagnostic questionnaire by A. E. Lichko with the assessment of the auto-aggression scale.
- Projective techniques. When interpreting the depicted situations, creating drawings, children with auto-aggression emphasize the loneliness, sadness, helplessness of the characters. Often depicted (interpreted) scenes of mortal danger, suicide, destructive interaction. The use of the “Draw a Story” test by R. Silver, the Pictorial Apperception Test, the Frustration Test by S. Rosenzweig and his childish version developed by N. V. Tarabrina is widespread.
Treatment of auto-aggression in a child
Autoagression therapy is quite effective with an integrated approach, selection of methods that correspond to the clinical picture and the patient’s age. In the treatment of young children, emphasis is placed on the correction of family relations. As a child grows up, various methods of psychotherapy are introduced – from simple behavioral techniques to deep study of unconscious intrapersonal conflicts.
The general scheme of treatment includes:
- Family psychotherapy. Apply meetings in the form of conversations and practical exercises. Parents are advised to eliminate situations that provoke auto-aggression in a child, to show attention and care, to demonstrate conflict-free ways to solve problems. In practice, safe methods of expressing aggression are mastered – outdoor games, expressive drawing, singing.
- Cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. Sessions are conducted individually. Negative attitudes regarding the personality are identified and corrected – low self-esteem, hyper-responsibility, uncertainty, expectation of anger, and disappointment of others. The inexpediency and harm of auto-aggressive actions are discussed, techniques for their relief, replacement, and removal of the emotional stress underlying destructive behavior are being developed and tested.
- Group trainings. This form of psychotherapy is most effective at school age. In the classroom, children practice communication skills, learn to find a compromise in conflicts, and respect the opinion of an opponent. Reactions of other participants are feedback for the child, he begins to realize his own importance, positive and negative features.
- Medication correction. The use of drugs is necessary in cases of severe auto-aggression, causing significant harm to health. Preparations allow to stop the symptoms at an early stage of treatment, when the effect of psychotherapy is still absent. Tranquilizers, antidepressants, neuroleptics are prescribed.
The prognosis of auto-aggression is determined by the age of the child and the timeliness of therapy. Favorable outcome is most likely in children with simple and immediate forms of self-destructive reactions in early childhood, the preschool period. Prevention is based on creating and maintaining good, trusting relationships among family members. It is necessary that the interpersonal interaction was perceived by the child as interesting and safe.
To do this, you must abandon the harsh punishments, teach constructive ways to resolve conflicts (agreements, concessions, exchanges). You can not suppress the aggression of the child, you need to find ways to safe expression.
Autoagression in a child is a form of activity aimed at hurting oneself. It manifests itself by self-accusation, self-humiliation, physical damage, restriction of vital needs (food, water), suicide attempts, enthusiasm for extreme sports and pastime. Children beat their heads against the wall, bite, scratch themselves, adolescents refuse to communicate and eat, put life at risk. Diagnosis is carried out by the method of conversation, psychological testing. Treatment is based on cognitive-behavioral and family psychotherapy, group training.
The term “auto-aggression” comes from the Latin language, which means “attack on oneself”. Synonyms – auto-aggression, autodestruction, self-destruction. From a biological point of view, such activity is considered as a pathological mechanism for the preservation of psychophysiological homeostasis at a certain stage of maladaptation.
Self-destructive behavior is a biologically determined protective-adaptive response, determined by individual adaptive capabilities. Reliable epidemiological prevalence of autoaggression among children is absent. The phenomenon is more commonly detected in boys with neurotic and behavioral disorders.