It’s normal for children to exhibit both positive and negative behavior at different times as they age and develop. But some students display high levels of antisocial tendencies – in some cases, as early as the age of three.

Antisocial behavior is manageable, but early intervention is key. Research has concluded that, if left untreated by the age of nine, it can lead to more severe problems in adolescence and adulthood. Antisocial behavior is more prevalent in boys, and it currently impacts between four and six million children nationwide.

Know the Signs

Children with antisocial tendencies typically struggle to regulate their emotions. They may be abusive to animals or other people, lie or steal, act rebelliously or violate rules, or indulge in vandalism or chronic delinquency. Other signs include:

  • Aggression or violent acts
  • Deceitfulness
  • Hostility
  • Depression
  • Lack of conscience or empathy
  • Disregard of authority or other people’s rights
  • Arrogance
  • Use of charm to manipulate
  • Lack of remorse

Severe symptoms may qualify children for a diagnosis of conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder. Antisocial behavior can fall into one of two categories:

  • Overt: This manifests by such obvious, open behavior as fighting.
  • Covert: This becomes evident through such actions as a theft, in which a student takes something from a classmate’s desk or backpack when they’re not looking.

How to Manage Antisocial Behavior

The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice suggests a three-tier approach to treating and managing children with antisocial behavior.

  • Primary prevention: This involves school-wide activities such as teaching children conflict resolution and anger management.
  • Secondary prevention: At this level, children who are at risk participate in more specialized activities such as counseling, small-group social skills lessons, or mentoring.
  • Tertiary treatment: This targets specific antisocial behaviors. It can involve continued intensive counseling and should include any teachers, parents, guardians and trained personnel who can lend expertise.

Additional treatment options may include:

  • Music therapy: This may help children develop empathy and improve their social skills. They can use instruments or song writing as outlets, as well as ways of working on appropriate behavior and peer interaction.
  • Parental training: Parents can undergo training to address any negative issues that may have contributed to their children’s antisocial behavior.

Speak with your school’s counseling center or administration about specific cases of antisocial behavior and the best course of prevention or treatment to follow.

As you launch a new academic year, do you need additional resources and guidance to ensure you’re starting off on the right note? As you continue to build your school-based therapy career, partner with the experts at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. Contact us today or read our related posts to learn more.


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