Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Conduct Disorder and Behaviour Problems in Children




 
conduct disorder


Conduct disorder and behaviour problems in children make the news when a 5-year old or a grandmother is killed while extorting money. Aggression in children  is just one of the offenses associated with conduct disorders . The seemingly lesser offenses of stealing in thousands from the home, or smoking 'weed' with their friends, pale in contrast. At the lowest end of the spectrum are those children who repeatedly confront authority in school or at home. Dubbed as 'monster kids' these children are viewed indulgently as being mischievous, naughty, 'bad', or 'delinquent'. Very seldom are they seen as having a mental health problem - a conduct disorder.

What is Conduct Disorder?

Behaviour problems that are persistent, violate the rights of others, go against societal norms, and disrupt family life, indicate a conduct disorder and merit psychiatric assessment. Conduct disorder is amongst the commonest childhood disorders seen in our clinic. Every one of us knows or has heard of a child with conduct disorders . Conduct disorder is characterised by the following behaviour problems .
Aggression
This child (maybe a 2 year old preschool cherub) picks fights, bullies, or physically hurts younger siblings at home. He is frequently taken to the principal's office for fighting in school. When this child enters the park the other children get ready to leave. He has often used a weapon (stick, cricket bat, stone or brick) to deliberately assault a person or hurt an animal.
Destruction of property
These children are wilfully destructive. They are the ones who scratch the paint off your new car, slash the seats of parked 2 wheelers, deface the lift, cut up a mothers dress, and tear the library book. More seriously they set fire to clothes and in extreme cases to vehicles.
Lying and deceit
These are children who steal from parents, grandparents, and classmates. They forge their parent's signature on school reports, cheques, and credit cards.They lie,  cheat and pilfer from shops.
Violation of rules
They stay out until late at night against home rules and curfews. They 'bunk' school to hang out with other antisocial friends, and run away from home overnight.

What happens to children with conduct disorder behaviours ?

Most parents feel a child will outgrow behaviour problems and conduct disorders .  However studies show this is not so. If not addressed and treated, children with conduct disorders are suspended from school, and have brushes with the law. Half of these children also have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) which further impacts their schooling. Broken relationships and marriages, and substance abuse including alcohol and cannabis abuse are common. As adults children with behaviour problems develop antisocial personalities and lead a criminal lifestyle. In the extreme a child with conduct disorder will murder his grandmother or a hapless neighbour's toddler.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Aggression in children - need for parental intervention

aggression-prevalence
Aggression is uncommon in school children and should be addressed

A Pune teenager was kidnapped and murdered by his school friends a few weeks ago. The victim was deliberately selected and his parents were manipulated for a ransom. Violence, theft and destructiveness are end stage behaviours of conduct problems in children and adolescents.


Trajectories of aggression in children

The commonest path of violence in children is 'adolescence-limited'. The antisocial behaviours usually occur when the adolescents are 'hanging out' in a group.  This type of aggression reflects an anti-authoritarianism. Anti-authoritarianism results from frustration over being denied the benefits of full adult independence despite reaching physical maturity. Adolescent limited aggression is less violent, relies on peer encouragement, and generally diminishes by adulthood  These adolescents are usually able to integrate into society as young adults.

A less common path of violence is 'life-course-persistent'. In this group of antisocial children, problem behaviors unfold in a sequence at home and school
  1. Early noncompliance - with excessive arguing and disobedience
  2. Poor rule adherence - staying out late, playing in prohibited locations
  3. Low frustration tolerance - temper tantrums, abusiveness, aggression
Aggression is common among preschoolers. The prevalence rate of aggression in children reduces dramatically once they enter school. Children whose fighting does not  reduce in the early school years are at high risk for persistent violent behavior. This important subgroup of proactively aggressive youth is profoundly indifferent to the consequences that their misbehavior has upon others. They rarely display genuine remorse. Their personality of 'callous-unemotional traits' is characterised by a lack of empathy, self-centeredness, and shallowness. As youths they are responsible for a large number of violent offenses. Their aggressive behavior is often persistent as features of psychopathic or sociopathic personality.

Parenting can prevent violence

  1. Make aggression irrelevant by modifying the setting
  2. Aggression is significantly affected by the parent-child relationship. Children with conduct problems tend to have acrimonious and negative interactions with their parents. The parent is perceived as just an agent of coercion. It is important to change this environment. Positive interactions between the parent and child serves to reinforce the perception of the parent as a source of positive attention, affection, support and encouragement. This makes the child responsive to parents' authority and to the rewards and punsihment that  the parent dispenses.
  3. Make aggression ineffective by modifying its consequences
  4. The reactions of others to the aggressive behavior sustains and reinforces it. They may give in to what the child wants, give up trying to get compliance, or even bar the child from school -  which may be exactly what the child wants. To render the aggression ineffective parents/ teachers have to respond by ignoring milder misbehaviour and handing out consequences. These include time outs, loss of privileges (TV, cell phone, Facebook) that the child will want to avoid, and limit setting (curfew times, restricting location).
    Parents need to establish  their authority and implement some of these measures in aggressive children. This teaches children that aggression is an ineffective means of fulfilling a particular wish. These lessons are better learned early under caring parents rather than later in a centre for juvenile delinquents.
References
Brennan LM. Toddler-age externalizing behaviors and school-age academic achievement: independent associations and the impact of parental involvement University of Pittsburgh. Thesis presented 27-Aug-2010.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Talk - not TV - for your toddler

No TV for babies
Turn off the television and speak to your toddler. Talking is the best thing you could do today for your child’s psychological development. Talking is an interactive process in which your child exercises a core feature of being human - communicating through speech. Your child's vocabulary is directly proportional to the amount of time you spend talking.

Talking primes your child for independence. Speech evolves through attempts to communicate needs and feelings. Infants and toddlers are driven by evolution to master this complex process. You, the parent, play a key role in this two-way interaction. Infancy and toddler-hood are stages for developing secure bonding and attachment. The child is primed to bond with the mother or caregiver. The initial bond is secured by direct contact with the caregiver - through warmth, touch and voice. A secure attachment bond enables the infant seeks to explore the environment by attempts to crawl and later walk. The exploring toddler returns often to the parent to re-experience attachment security. It is here that talking plays a crucial role in maintaining the attachment bond at a distance. The child is then able to explore the environment away from direct contact with the parent.

Your one-year-old is psychologically unable to follow or learn from video. Some parents are convinced that certain TV channels are ‘educational’ for their toddler. The ability to comprehend video arises between 18 to 24 months of age (Pempek 2010). Prior to 2 years of age TV has little or no educational impact on the child, whatever the claims by media groups vying for their ‘eyeballs’. TV programming meant for 2-year-olds delays language and vocabulary development (AAP 2011, Zimmerman 2007).

Television is not a substitute for parenting. Parents leave the TV on to distract the child while they are engaged otherwise. Television holds the toddlers attention through its series of changing visual stimuli. This visual stimulus is powerful and distracting. While interacting with parents with the TV on in the background, the toddler is forced to shift attention to the TV once every 20 seconds. Even in adolescents, background TV adversely affects mental processing, memory and comprehension. Having the TV always on in the toddlers home interferes with unstructured play time that is critical to developing problem-solving skills and creativity. Repeated research has shown no developmental benefits for television exposure in infancy (Schmidt 2009, ).

Talk to and play with your children. Television is a medium that encourages passivity. TV delays vocabulary growth and language development in toddlers. Turn off the TV.

References
  1. Academy of Pediatrics. Policy Statement. Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years. Council on Communications and Media. PEDIATRICS Vol. 128 No. 5November 1, 2011. pp. 1040 -1045 (doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-1753)
  2. Pempek TA, Kirkorian HL, Richards JE, Anderson DR, Lund AF, Stevens M. Video comprehensibility and attention in very young children. Dev Psychol. 2010 Sep;46(5):1283-93. 
  3. Schmidt ME, Rich M, Rifas-Shiman SL, Oken E, Taveras EM. Television viewing in infancy and child cognition at 3 years of age in a US cohort. Pediatrics. 2009 Mar;123(3):e370-5. 
  4. Zimmerman FJ, Christakis DA, Meltzoff AN. Associations between media viewing and language development in children under age 2 years. J Pediatr. 2007 Oct;151(4):364-8. Epub 2007 Aug 7. 


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Parental supervision of children and adolescents

parental supervision and injuries in children with high intensity behaviour
Parental supervision protects boisterous children from injury:
More time unsupervised corresponds to more injury 
“To my parents we were just two girls in the bedroom”. What exactly was going on? Without adequate supervision the parents of this teenager never found out; the memories returned to haunt her in adulthood. Studies comparing children with and without parental supervision show that lax parental supervision is associated with injury in toddlers and preschoolers; conduct problems in school going children; and road accidents, addictions, gambling and sexual risk taking in teenagers.

Parental supervision has three dimensions (Gitanjali 2004)
  1. Attention - watching or listening 
  2. Proximity - within or beyond reach 
  3. Continuity - constant, intermittent, or not at all 

Two factors determine the degree to which a child would be left unsupervised (Morrongiello 2008)
  1. Parent’s conscientiousness - the more conscientious the parent more the supervision
  2. Child’s propensity for risky behaviour - the more impulsive and sensation seeking the child the more likely the child will be kept in direct view. 

Distinguishing adequate from neglectful supervision is not straight forward. The consequences of lower levels of supervision are not uniform for all children. The consequences depend to a great extent on child attributes. For children with high sensation seeking, even close supervision is not adequate to prevent injury. For children who are high in behavioural control, even not supervising does not elevate risk of injury.

Whether or not children comply with their parents’ requests to behave in safe ways is a complex interaction of parenting style, attachment style,  and child temperament. The level of supervision necessary to ensure a child’s safety should finally be based on the child’s characteristics. The only reliable maxim is that the time children could be safely left unsupervised generally increases with child age.

Parental supervision of an adolescent differs from supervising a younger child (DeVore 2005). Direct parental observation gradually gives way to indirect parental ‘‘monitoring’. This indirect supervision involves ongoing communication between parents and adolescents about the adolescents’
  • Whereabouts
  • Friends they are with
  • Schedule to return home
  • Contact information enabling parents to directly communicate with adolescents. 
Effective supervision entails active participation of the adolescent, and honest communication between adolescent and parents.

Parental monitoring buffers negative peer influence. Strong peer attachments and increasing independence from the family is a normal part of adolescent development. Unfortunately, youth whose peers engage in high-risk behaviour are at high risk for the development of similar behaviours. Not only are high levels of monitoring protective, low levels of parental monitoring have been associated with numerous risk behaviours.

More unsupervised time is associated with more sexual activity in youth (Cohen 2002). In one urban study more than half of sexually active youth had sex at home after school. For boys, sex and drug-related risks increase with amount of unsupervised time. Trust and communication did not predict decreases in problem behaviour as strongly as did monitoring. Parental monitoring may be particularly protective for high-risk young urban adolescents; those who spend a significant amount of non-school time unsupervised. 

References 
  1. Cohen DA, Farley TA, Taylor SN, et al. When and where do youths have sex? The potential role of adult supervision. Pediatrics 2002; 110:e66 
  2. DeVore ER, Ginsburg KR. The protective effects of good parenting on adolescents. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2005 Aug;17(4):460-5. 
  3. Gitanjali S, Brenner R, Morrongiello BA, Haynie D, Rivera M, Cheng T. The role of supervision in child injury risk: Definition, conceptual, and measurement issues. Journal of Injury Control & Safety Promotion 2004;11(1):17-22. 
  4. Morrongiello BA, Klemencic N, Corbett M. Interactions between child behavior patterns and parent supervision: Implications for children’s risk of unintentional injury. Child Development 2008;79(3):627-638.  

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cross-Dressing - Prevention by Parenting?

cross-dressing symbol
Cross-dressing is associated with problems in parenting and may be preventable. Recently a male student in Pune was found dead with a wig and female articles of clothing lying about his room.

Types of cross-dressing

Cross-dressers in society are psychologically indistinguishable from non-cross-dressing men (Brown 1996).
  1. Fetishistic transvestism
  2. Almost three percent of men and 0.4% of women have had at least one episode of transvestic fetishism (sexual arousal from cross-dressing) (langstrom 2005). However, these 'nuclear' transvestites are less likely to venture out dressed in public.
  3. Transvestism
  4. 'Marginal’ transvestites experience non-sexual pleasure from cross-dressing and are more likely to appear in public while cross-dressed. They are probably a separate group and more likely to be homosexual.
  5. Transsexualism
  6. Cross-dressers could also be transsexuals who desire surgical sex reassignment. Cross-dressing in Asians is one of the earliest signs of transexualism (Tsoi 1990).

The cross-dresser's childhood

(RL Schott 1995)
Cross-dressers are usually the eldest male child in their family. Most had a very positive relationship with their mothers and a very negative relationship with their fathers.
As children cross-dressing was furtive and secret - the covert group of cross-dressers. In the overt group (up to 20%), cross-dressing was initiated and openly encouraged - up to school age and sometimes beyond - by a mother, sister, or other female extended family member.
Young boys, in contrast to young girls, must struggle to separate psychologically from their mother in order to establish their own gender identity. Identification as a male, as being of the opposite sex from the mother, requires individuation and separation from her. Disturbances in masculinity (cross-dressing) may be an expression of impairments in this process. The eldest male child may be especially vulnerable for lack of a role model or cushion between himself and the mother.

Cross-dressing facts

(Docter 1997)
  • Usually starts before the age of 10 years.
  • Initially associated with sexual pleasure and orgasm. However, up to 90% of cross-dressers continue to do so for non-orgasmic pleasure.
  • The most commonly used articles are female underclothing and wigs.
  • Considered as an expression of the feminine part of the self, rather than as just the self with different clothes. Cross-dressing is an expression of consciously felt femininity (Levine 1993). Hence the symbol.
  • Cross-dressers prefer complete to partial cross-dressing.
  • Cross-dressers are not bold in their public appearances. About a quarter appear cross-dressed in public and a similar number have ever used the lady's restrooms - the final frontier of femininity. With increasing awareness and activism public appearances by this group of people are increasing.
  • Transvestism in adulthood is associated with guilt. Most cross-dressers get rid of their feminine clothing at some time due to feelings of shame.
  • Most wives are aware of their partners cross-dressing. Up to a quarter of them are completely accepting of the behaviour.

When is cross-dressing normal in children?

    Cross-dressing boys are first brought for psychiatric evaluation by their parents when they are discovered in their mother's underclothes. The sexual outcome of early isolated cross-dressing is not predictable.
  • It is not uncommon for boys to prefer aesthetic activities like dance or singing to football or wrestling. 
  • They occasionally role-play as a girl, play with a doll, or dress up in a girl's or woman's costume.
    Cross-dressing is associated with transvestism and transsexualism when there is
  1. Stated preference for being a girl and for growing up to become a woman
  2. Repeated cross-sex fantasy play
  3. Preference for traditionally female-type activities like knitting and baking
  4. Female peer group

How to deal with a cross-dressing child

Parents bring their cross-dressing child for psychiatric evaluation when they fear he will become homosexual or transsexual. We have already seen that  parenting style affects the child's social, emotional and behavioural development. At this early stage the focus should be on making the child comfortable with himself or herself and to reduce social stigma (Lev 2005).

Integrate the child into his peer group

This is essential to prevent teasing
  • By ages 4-5 boys and girls differ in their manners of walking, running, throwing a ball, and narrating a story. Point out these gestures and mannerisms.

Emphasise a positive father-son experience

Whether the father is distant or the boy is more attuned to his mother - the boy with gender identity disorder typically has a strained relationship with his father.
  • The father must compromise his busy work schedule to build a relationship with his son.
  • Nonathletic activities can be mutually enjoyable.
  • Taking the son to work provides a better image of who father is.
  • Board games, video games, and a shared father-son activity, such as model making and visits to the zoo are helpful.

Convey happiness with the sex of the child

The child may believe that the parents wanted a child of the other sex. Sometimes parents did and conveyed the wish to the child.
  • Parents must convey the message that they wanted a child of the same sex.
  • Convey that they are happy with the sex of their child.

Teach the boy that sex is irreversible

Psychologically children have not achieved gender constancy at ages 4 to 6. They may think that by cross-dressing or changing hair length they change their sex.
  • The anatomical differences between the sexes should be made explicit
  • Point out that superficial changes will not change their sex.

References
  1. Brown GR, Wise TN, Costa PT Jr, Herbst JH, Fagan PJ, Schmidt CW Jr. Personality characteristics and sexual functioning of 188 cross-dressing men. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1996 May;184(5):265-73.
  2. Richard F Docter and Virginia Prince. Transvestism: A survey of 1032 cross-dressers. Archives of Sexual Behavior; Dec 1997; 26, 6.
  3. Långström N, Zucker KJ. Transvestic fetishism in the general population: prevalence and correlates. J Sex Marital Ther. 2005 Mar-Apr;31(2):87-95.
  4. Arlene Istar Lev. Transgender emergence: therapeutic guidelines for working with gender variant people and their families. Haworth Clinical Practice Press. New York. 2005.
  5. Levine SB. Gender-disturbed males. J Sex Marital Ther. 1993 Summer;19(2):131-41.
  6. Richard L. Schott. The childhood and family dynamics of transvestites. Arch Sex Behav. 1995 Jun;24(3):309-27.
  7. Tsoi WF. Developmental profile of 200 male and 100 female transsexuals in Singapore. Arch Sex Behav. 1990 Dec;19(6):595-605.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Is discipline harming my child?

Last Sunday, 14th November was Children's Day. The papers and supplements were full of articles about children and how to parent them. The need to let the child do whatever he or she wanted to do was stressed. Some articles went so far as to highlight families where the child's every whim was indulged. Until a worried parent of a five-year-old asked our counsellor
Is discipline harming my child?

The message from these articles being
If you love them set them free - from your control

Does it actually matter as to how you parent your child?
Well, there are some associations between parenting styles and outcomes for the child.


Parenting Styles
4 Parenting Styles based on Responsiveness and Demands
The concept of parenting style has evolved through three major influences
  1. The differentiation of parenting style into four types based on "parental responsiveness" and "parental demandingness" by Maccoby and Martin (1983). The neglectful style where the parents display no warmth and exert no control or demands over their child; permissive style where warmth is displayed but no demands or behaviour control is displayed; authoritarian where there are only demands without parental support or warmth; and the authoritative type where there is parental warmth and also high expectations and demands on the child.
  2. How much should parents control their child?  Diana Baumrind (1967, 1980, 1989, and 1991) showed that children brought up in a neglectful style tend to do poorly on behavioural, emotional, social and academic measures. Children and adolescents from permissive homes are more likely to be involved in problem behaviour, and perform less well in school, but have higher self-esteem, and better social skills. An authoritarian style produces children and adolescents with no problem behaviour and good academic functioning, but they have poor social skills, and emotional problems. With an authoritative parenting style children do well on all behavioural, emotional, social and academic measures.
  3. The role of psychological control of the child is the third major influence on the concept of parental styles (Barber, 1996). Authoritarian and authoritative parents both exert behavioural control over their children. They differ in the degree of psychological control they exert on the child's mind. Authoritative parents acknowledge that their children and adolescents could have opinions and values that are different from their own, while authoritarian parents do not allow this. Availability of the parent for communication and discussion is probably the crucial difference that enables children and adolescents of authoritative parents to be consistently more competent in behavioural, social, emotional and academic spheres.

The story would be incomplete if I did not mention that each child is born with a temperament of his or her own. Parental style is partly a response to the child's temperament. Not every troubled child or adolescent is the product of poor parenting.

So, should I discipline my child?
Well, you must discipline the behaviour, but remain open for dialogue on their opinions. Indulge their dreams, ensure they work towards that dream in the real world. Control the behaviour not the mind.


References

  1. Barber, B. K. (1996). Parental psychological control: Revisiting a neglected construct. Child Development, 67(6), 3296-3319.
  2. Baumrind, D. (1967). Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75(1), 43-88.
  3. Baumrind, D. (1980). New directions in socialization research. Psychological Bulletin, 35, 639-652.
  4. Baumrind, D. (1989). Rearing competent children. In W. Damon (Ed.), Child development today and tomorrow (pp. 349-378). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  5. Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56-95.
  6. Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent–child interaction. In P. H. Mussen (Ed.) & E. M. Hetherington (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4. Socialization, personality, and social development (4th ed., pp. 1-101). New York: Wiley.