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Three Causes of Behavior Change

by Lori Sciame | October 22nd, 2014 | Behavior, Elementary

boy-477010_1280When a child’s behavior suddenly changes, it can be a tumultuous time.  A previously sweet, outgoing young boy becomes sullen – barely leaving his room, or a smart, interested girl suddenly seems angry all the time.  What accounts for these sudden changes?  Let’s explore three possibilities.

1.  Sexual Abuse

No parent wants to believe his or her child has become a victim of sexual abuse, but it happens — all too often.  Even if a parent works diligently to protect his child from sexual predators, they may still be lurking.

Consider these statistics from the United States Department of Justice:

  • As many as one in three  girls and one  in seven boys will be sexually abused at some point in their childhood.
  • Most perpetrators are acquaintances, but as many as 47% are family or extended family.
  • In as many as 93% of child sexual abuse cases, the child knows the person that commits the abuse.

Sexual abuse can alter a child’s behavior in many ways.  Click here to find out how to recognize the signs of sexual abuse in children.

2.  Bullying

Another reason why a child might change his or her behavior is because of bullying at school.  If an elementary aged child has become the target of a bully, he or she might suddenly begin having unexplained stomachaches or headaches.  He or she may even come home from school with unexplained injuries.

The United States Government has an excellent web site on the problem of bullying.  If you have a young child, it worth checking it out. To learn more about the warning signs of bullying, follow this link.

Those children especially at risk for bullying include those new to a school, those that wear glasses, those that are overweight (or underweight), or those who have few friends.

3.  Depression

While it is not common, sometimes depression does strike young children — even those in grade school.  As stated on Web MD, “According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, an estimated 2% of young children, and 4% to 8% of adolescents, suffer from depression.”

Two percent seems to be an insignificant number, until it strikes your own child.  Depression can rob a child of energy, so that his school work begins to suffer. Given that depressive episodes can last up to nine months, he can “lose” an entire school year.  Another concern: suicide.

Because of its negative consequences, depression in young children should be addressed quickly.  Contact your child’s pediatrician for assistance as soon as you suspect your child may be depressed.

Sample symptoms of depression include:

1.  Despondency

2.  Lethargy

3. Sleeping all the time

4.  Lack of self care

5.  Loss of interest in everything – even favorite toys or pets

There are many reasons why a child may change his or her behavior.  As a caring parent, you must look for clues as to the reason for the change. Remember, YOU are your child’s best advocate.  It many cases, the change may be transitory in nature; however, if the change lasts or worsens, seek help.  Your child is counting on you!

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