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Violent Behavior among Children and Adolescents

Introduction

Violent behavior among children and adolescents can be attributed to various things. Sarmini and Azizah (2018) argue that there is a link between childhood aggression and the father figure actions. In particular, they hold a study that looks into gambling and child aggression. Arguably, children will be more manageable if there is family harmony. This can be achieved through proper communication between parents, between guardians and their children, and between the children in the family. Henggeler and Sheidow (2012) go further to explain that treatments aiming to help avert disorderly behavior and delinquency among adolescents also include functional family theory. This goes to show the link between the structure and functionality of the family unit in determining the behavior of a child. It is critical to note that there are two factors to consider when discussing child delinquency and violence. The first is violence directed to parents, while the second is delinquency due to the behavior of the guardians.

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The topic selected is relevant and interesting as it can be related to real-life situations. Additionally, the number of violent teenagers and children is steadily increasing, as stated by Li and Cheng (2017). Therefore, both parents and psychologists have to come up with different ways of dealing with unwanted behavior while still promoting the child’s healthy growth. This essay will present a case study of a violent child and use theoretical frameworks to understand further why the child feels this behavior is crucial in his development. Indeed, this will be achieved through proper identification of aspects of the selected theories in the child’s behavior. Additionally, a brief discussion that will offer a personal opinion on the matter will be shared.

Theoretical Part

As stated before, there are various reasons scholars use to explain aggressive behaviors in children and adolescents. Ibabe et al. (2013) explain that the bi-directionality of family violence can explain why child aggression occurs. The scholars add that children who are in violent families will most likely also resort to aggression as a way of expressing themselves. One theory that the scholars use to support their argument is the social learning theory (Ibabe et al., 2013). The theory states that people learn by imitating others. It is supported by numerous socialization arguments that add that the primary way offspring (either human or animal) develop is through imitating their parents (mothers specifically). One can argue that the theory puts significant relevance on the initial socialization. However, as the child grows, other influences come to play, such as peer pressure and the search for self-identity.

Importantly, using the theory of social learning, the child will react to these influences based on what they have learned at home. The premise can be unpacked to simply mean that the child will perceive all relationships through the scope of the violent at home. Therefore, the child will use violence to control other people, get what they want, or shape other people’s opinion of themselves. The same theory can be used to explain children who are aggressive towards their caregivers. According to Ibabe et al. (2013), children who have been abused will most likely also abuse older people who show any form of care towards them. This is an attempt to reverse the trauma that they have felt, and arguably, in their mind, they are also doing the same to their abuser.

At times, it is possible to predict if children will have behavioral problems later on in life. Somech and Elizur (2012) explain that aggressive teenagers and adolescents often portray early-onset conduct problems. These can be due to an exposure to a violent household or through aggressive patterns. The scholars rely on Hitkashrut theory to explain their study and findings. The principle is borrowed from Hebrew and suggests that there are common elements that can both identify aggression and be used to resolve attachment issues that cause violence in children. Two things have to be considered when discussing childhood aggression using this theory. The first is that violence in children can be identified early and resolved. The second is that attachment issues are the major contributing factor to child violence.

In the first instance, the theory explains that parents and psychologists can resolve issues related to early-onset conduct problems. When these behaviors are noted, a solution must be implemented to discourage negative actions. For example, if a child is in a violent family, he or she starts to bully children. The immediate solution would be to remove that child from the dysfunctional family setting. After the initial withdrawal, other interventions, such as counseling, can be done successfully. It is critical to note that the theory suggests that one has to inhibit at all cost all negative parent-child relationships (Somech & Elizur, 2012). If the reason for the aggression is not violent behavior at home, then the child might use the same to get attention from the parent. In such an instance, the parent has to provide an environment where the child does not feel like he or she is in competition for attention with other people or activities.

There have been debates that the increase in child aggression is also due to media exposure. The kind of programs that the affected children are exposed to often relate to their behavior. This goes back to the concept expanded by the social learning theory. Hasan et al. (2013) explain that the cognitive neoassociative-theory can also be used to further expand on the argument. The theory states that human memory is a combination of nodes and links where the nodes represent concepts. In contrast, the links represent the relations among the concepts. Therefore, a concept has to be stimulated for it to be linked to other concepts. Hasan et al. (2013) analyze the impact of violent video games in the development of near-similar behavior among the users. Towards this end, the act of playing the games and enjoying killing or beating each other becomes the primary stimuli. This then starts a process that includes the linking up of violent concepts in the child’s mind. Therefore, the act of enjoyment of winning the violent game connects together with angry feelings towards a person, and this then leads to the feelings of desperation and end up in the child being violent.

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These arguments are further enhanced by the fact that people who play violent games are more likely to also prefer other violent forms of media material. Gunter and Daly (2012) quote a study which showed that people who played non-violent games were less likely to resort to aggression to express themselves than those who played violent video games.

Further, there is a clear relationship between behavior and child-parent relations. As explained before, parents are the first contact of any human being. The term parent here also refers to guardians or an older figure that a child looks up to when growing up. These influential figures help the child understand the world around him or her, and at the same time, also shape how the child perceives him or herself. Klahr et al. (2011) state that child-parent conflict can lead to anti-social behavior later on. The scholars agree that Patterson’s theory is critical in both understanding and resolving aggression among children. The theory suggests that one cannot treat behavioral problems in children without fully understanding, scrutinizing, and providing solutions for better parent-child relations.

On the same note, the mentioned family or parent-child methodologies can be used when an at-risk child is identified. As explained earlier, there are numerous ways an at-risk adolescent can be identified. Abrahams at al. (2016) look into community-based solutions to help at-risk teenagers avert violent reactions to situations. The scholars look into parent-child interaction therapy, family creative therapy, and training and treatment therapy to help a child stop the violent behavior (Abrahams at al., 2016). The authors also use the social learning theory to explain violence in children. They add that one of the key ways of helping teenagers with such aggressive tendencies is to reduce the coercive pattern in their relationship with their parent or parents.

Case Study

One requirement of my Perah scholarship was offering volunteer services for one year. My work was to work with children in an attempt to help them improve their grades in school. Therefore, I was tasked with teaching classroom-related subjects such as Math, English, and Science. One child, in particular, was of interest as he appeared timid at the beginning. However, after a few weeks, he became highly active and tried to seek attention at all times. The child was in fourth grade at the time and was highly intelligent. Interestingly, whenever attention was not given to the child’s satisfaction, he would become highly violent. His violence was directed to other children, but never to other tutors or me. In one instance, he struck a child in order to take his ball. He then went ahead and played with the ball as if nothing had happened.

I could not understand why he was so violent all of a sudden. Upon investigation, I was informed that the child did portray aggressive behaviors prior to me becoming his tutor. His mother had been informed of his behavior, and she had promised to ensure he stops attacking other children. However, the management was not keen on knowing whether any form of intervention was taken first to understand the behavior and resolve it. I attempted to talk to the child about his behavior and notified him that it was wrong and that he was hurting the other children. The child appeared remorseful and, for a few days, was a team player. However, after a couple of days, he started hitting his fellow students again.

On day, I got a deeper understanding of the child’s behavior. It was 21st March, and everyone was celebrating Mother’s Day. A few days before the day, I encouraged all the children to create pieces that they would present to their mothers on the day. We had agreed that the children would first present their pieces in class, to show other children why their mother was special. All the children had created beautiful arts and crafts for their mothers except this same boy. I did not want to embarrass him in class, so after the session was over, I went to speak briefly with him before he went home. Interestingly, when I asked him why he had not created something special for his mother, he said he did not want to do so. When I asked him why this was so, he stated that he hated his mother, and he felt like she did not deserve any gift as she had not been a good mother.

This was a shocking revelation, but it helped me chart a path for resolution for the child. I investigated further and realized that the child’s parents were divorced. The household had significant emotional and physical abuse before the parents decided to get a divorce. The boy had experienced all this violence and, at times, had been the recipient of the same. The boy lived with his mother for a while after the divorce, but she then took him to her mother (the boy’s grandmother), and the boy had only seen her a few times after that. The boy had also seen the father a few times, but he insisted that he loved his grandmother and did not mind living with her.

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Integration

Four theories were identified in the theoretical part of this essay. The four theories were social learning theory, cognitive neoassociative-theory, Hitkashrut theory, and Patterson’s theory. The social learning theory can be used to explain the behaviors of the child. As mentioned, the theory suggests that children imitate others’ actions, especially their parents, who offer the foundation of socialization after the child is born (Ibabe et al., 2013). The argument seems persuasive as it ties with the fact that the boy in the case study had been exposed to violent behavior at home. Besides, the boy was also a victim of both the emotional and physical violence that was primarily between his parents. Thus, it can be argued that the removal of the child from the violent set-up helped the situation as the child was no longer exposed to the same.

Despite moving to his grandmothers, the child was still expressing himself in violent ways. This is supported by the second theory, the cognitive neoassociative-theory. As mentioned, the theory states that human memory is made up of nodes, which are the concepts, and the links, which are the relations between these concepts (Hasan et al., 2013). Arguably, the theory can be applied in understanding the boy’s reactions better. For instance, one can argue that the violence the boy experienced at home was the stimulus action. It was then connected to his feelings of anger, fear, rejection, abandonment, and even love for both his parents. The linkages then made the boy highly likely to resort to aggression to show/gain control or express his feeling. Thus, the argument is persuasive as it explains why the boy continued to be violent after he was removed from the toxic environment.

The third theory, Hitkashrut, suggests that early-onset behavioral problems have to be curbed to avoid complications later on in life. The principle can be linked to the case study successfully. As explained, upon investigation, it was confirmed that the child had been violent for a while. Therefore, both his parents and teachers were aware of his aggressive behavior. This is what the theory refers to as early-onset behavioral problems. It is arguable that if a solution had been sought early, the child would not have been experiencing the same problems in fourth grade. Debatably, the child has been mentally and emotionally unhealthy due to the behavioral problem. Indeed, the school should have felt obliged to investigate further why the child behaved in such a violent manner towards other children. It would have been clear that he suffered from attachment issues that stemmed from the fact that his parents were divorced. Additionally, his condition was made worse because he had witnessed and even been a victim of abuse.

The fourth theory, just like the discussed three, also matches the case study. The Patterson theory suggests that parent-child relationships are vital in understanding the behavior of teenagers and adolescents. The theory is persuasive as it denotes that the boy had a complicated relationship with his parents. Debatably, this was since his parents had problems of their own within their marriage. The child continued to be aggressive despite his parents’ divorce because he still had abandonment issues arising from the stated parent-child relationship.

Discussion

The case study shows how parent-children and even home environments can affect how children interact with other people. The boy in the case study felt the need to be aggressive as it is the only form of expression he had learned from his parents, who were always fighting and yelling. It is important to note that whereas the child did not yell, he was significantly aggressive. The fact that he did not yell could be due to the assumption that he was scared of raised voices due to the trauma he experienced. To him, a person with power could be violent as his parents were both powerful and aggressive. Arguably, during the fights, the most powerful parent would harm the less powerful one. The child perceived this as an essential part of communicating strength. All the theories used can be successfully applied in the case study. They appear to complement each other and offer a complete discussion of the child’s behavior.

The issue of child aggression or violence is complicated due to the number of things that can influence the child’s perception of other people and the world. For instance, a toxic environment, peer pressure and the need to find one’s self-identity can all be attributed to behavior. At times, it can be difficult differentiating between a contributing factor or a resultant of poor behavior among teenagers (Frick, 2012). However, despite its complexity, one clear thing is that the home situation or parent-child relationship of an at-risk or even already violent teenager will play a role in understanding his or her behavior. In fact, it is arguable that a significant number of behavioral problems start at home. This can be related to poor parenting, lack of parenting due to the fact that there are some child-led households and toxic relationships between the two parents. Therefore, one can argue that the best way to initiate treatment for such behavior is to encourage a positive and healthy relationship between children and their parents or guardians.

References

Abrahams, E. M., Junger, M., Van Wouwe, M. M., Boer, F., Lindauer, L. R. (2016). Treating child disruptive behavior in high-risk families: A comparative effectiveness trial from a community-based implementation. Journal of Child Family Studies, 25, 1605–1622.

Frick, F. P. (2012). Developmental pathways to conduct disorder: Implications for future directions in research, assessment, and treatment. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 41(3), 378–389.

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Gunter, W. D., & Daly, K. (2012). Causal or spurious: Using propensity score matching to detangle the relationship between violent video games and violent behavior. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 1348–1355.

Hasan, Y., Bègue, L., Scharkow, M., & Bushman, J. B. (2013). The more you play, the more aggressive you become: A long-term experimental study of cumulative violent video game effects on hostile expectations and aggressive behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 49, 224–227.

Henggeler, W. S., & Sheidow, J. A. (2012). Empirically supported family-based treatments for conduct disorder and delinquency in adolescents. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38(1), 30–58.

Ibabe, I., Jaureguizar, J., & Bentler, M. P. (2013). Risk factors for child-to-parent violence. Journal on Family Violence, 28, 523–534.

Klahr, M. A., Rueter, A. M., McGue, M., Iacono, G. W., & Burt, S. A. (2011). The relationship between parent-child conflict and adolescent antisocial behavior: Confirming shared environmental mediation. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39, 683–694.

Li, Q., & Cheng, C. T. (2017). New evidence in physical violent behaviors among school-aged children: A multiple disadvantages model. Children and Youth Services Review 81, 301–308.

Sarmini, & Azizah, Z. N. (2018). Children aggressive behavior: Child development implications due to father’s gambling. Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, 226, 1601-1605.

Somech, Y. L., & Elizur, Y. (2012). Promoting self-regulation and cooperation in pre-kindergarten children with conduct problems: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(4), 412-422.

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