Behaviour that challenges can be defined as “challenging” if it puts other’s people and their own safety at risk, leads to poorer quality of life, has a negative impact towards people’s ability to join everyday activities, disrupts homelife, prevents the person from taking part in ordinary social, educational and leisure activities and affects their development and abilities to learn. Specific behaviour can include aggressive forms such as hitting, kicking, throwing objects or shouting and non-aggressive forms such as making repetitive noises. Verbal aggression is the most frequent type of inappropriate behaviour.
Most children display lots of challenging behaviour due to several factors including communication difficulties with parents and seeking their attention and reaction, feeling unwell or physical pain, hormonal changes during puberty, emotional distress or posttraumatic experiences such as abuse.
Self-harm and suicide attempts are common challenging behaviours related to the altered sense of identity after trauma, which creates self-loathing. Children may injure themselves or become addicted to the self-generated pain as a result of sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Most who engage in self-punishment act alone rather than in groups and often leaves a pattern on the skin like cutting, scratches with a sharp object, punching or head banging. Survivors of prolonged abuse in childhood develop characteristic personality changes and deformations in adult character. Victims who experienced traumatic events are more likely to be highly self-critical and be poor problem-solvers.
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Children who are unable to regulate rage adequately may be a subject to sudden outbursts of violence or chronic anger or both. Sudden violence behaviour may explode out of the blue and be very horrifying for all concerned. It sometimes involves considerable harm to others. A range of emotions frustration, low self-esteem, depression or health conditions that causes pain and discomfort may lead to challenging behaviour or violence or aggression. The driving force behind a child’s aggressive behaviour is not always obvious. Children being teased and irritated about something that has happened or is happening in their life, may be bullied at school and thus seek attention. Conflicts between parents, rebellion during adolescence, too high expectations and lack of warmth and comfort. Whatever the cause of their behaviour is it may be quite clear for parents or carers that they struggle to manage their anger and negative emotions. This has a harmful impact on social development and prevents the building of social resilience. Anger and fear are both trance states that prevent the child from being open to the curiosity and interest in the world that will promote the growth of resilience and joy.
Sometimes children avoid feeling angry with dependency figures or with themselves by directing the rage at the wider environment. This rage may be expressed physically, or it may be communicated verbally or non-verbally and can be acute or chronic, sometimes directed against the material environment and sometimes at the containing social group in an anonymous and impersonal way. The linking factor is the experience of the impulse to destroy felt by anger. Children may be destructive to their environment as an expression of their rage. Sometimes this takes the form of outbursts of sudden destructive behaviour. Older children and adults may continually desecrate their surroundings, either directing the violence at their most intimate spaces or engaging in acts of vandalism and ruination. Vandalism is the action involving damage or deliberate destruction of private and public property. The most common places that are usually vandalized are schools, parks, public places and transport. People who are responsible for vandalism do not respect the public property and do not care about the community. Teenagers become the attention seekers who rebel in society in order to be noticed and recognised. Young people tend to often follow the realms of delinquent behaviour to have a mandate to belong to certain groups and have recognition in a competitive manner from others who act similarly.
Another form of challenging behaviour is the taking of belongings or being in possession of articles that belong to other people without their permission. Stealing is a common behaviour in young, pre-school-aged children who are having difficulties with understanding the concept of private personal property. By the age of six, children should know that stealing is wrong and unacceptable. There may be a variety of reasons that older children steal, indeed it is often that they act under pressure to be accepted by certain peer groups or perhaps they have not experienced discipline for the act of theft, or it may be an underlying mental or emotional problem that causes this abnormal behaviour.
Howard Becker’s (1963) labelling theory argues that criminal and deviant act are a result of labelling by authorities and the powerless are more likely to be negatively labelled. The theorist suggests that the process by which we build up a picture of ourselves, based on descriptions or ‘labels ‘given to us by the figures. A label is more likely to stick if it is given publicly, frequently or by more than one person in one situation. A label can be positive or either negative. Interactionists argue that people do not become delinquents because of their social background but rather argue that crime emerges because of labelling by local authorities. Becker points out that people react differently to the same act depending on the social context and this influences the label that is place on the act. Self-concept is created how we are recognized ourselves and how we are labelled by others. Being labelled as deviant can lead to deviance amplification because this label can become master status.
Robert Merton’s was the theorist of the functionalism approach who believes that everyone needs to conform to the rules, norms and values in a society for that society to function well. If there are people who disagree with the rules, norms and value, they are seen to be dysfunctional contributing to the chaos in society. Merton recognize that any behaviour incompatible with the conformist set goals by the culture is a form of deviation. He also points out that the existence of conformism is a necessary element building society, and conformists must form a social majority of the community to function harmoniously. According to Merton there are five types of deviance based upon criteria conformity (the non-deviant, non-criminal conformist citizen), innovation (poor education or qualification or unemployment as an obstacle to achieve a goal so find illegal ways to succeed), ritualism (lack of effort and motivation), retreatism (drops out the race for success)and rebellion (substitutes new way to achieve new goals).
Behaviours that challenge may be caused by a variety of situational factors, specific life experiences or significant life evens.
Children or adults with severe learning disabilities or mental health problems are typically either unable to talk or have very limited verbal communication skills. This inability to express needs verbally can mean that the person may learn to use other ways to get their needs and wants met, including challenging behaviour if the service user experiences pain or discomfort.
Social problems such as being bullied, having difficulties at work or school, having difficult relationships with friends or family, coming to terms with their sexuality if they suspect they might be gay or bisexual. These issues can lead to a build-up of intense feelings of anger, guilt, hopelessness and self-hatred. The person may not know who to turn for help and self-harming may become a way release these pent-up feelings.
Children who have suffered early abuse or neglect may later present with significant behaviour problems including emotional instability, depression and tendency to act aggressively towards others. In most cases, traumatised children who experienced abuse or neglect suffer greater mental health than physical health damage. Emotional and psychological abuse and neglect deny the child the tools needed to cope with stress. The global disorders which follow trauma have an impact on learning which goes even deeper than these disruptions of cognitive functioning. They are likely to have difficulties with cognitive skill development in the areas of language, the creation of meaning or make sense of numbers.
Transition of change like ending an intimate partnership is often devastating emotional experience. When a significant relationship ends, either because of a conscious decision or because of circumstances beyond person’s control may affect children. Separation and divorce can be an especially sad, stressful and confusing time. At any age, kids may feel shocked, uncertain, or angry at the prospect of parents splitting up. Children from divorced families may experience more externalizing problems, such as conduct disorder, delinquency, and impulsive behaviour than kids from two-parent families. Adolescents with divorced parents are more likely to engage in risky behaviour for instance substances misuse and early sexual activity. According to The University College London scientists behind the new research believe divorce is more damaging to adolescents that to younger children because they are more socially sensitive and better to pick up on negative relationship dynamics.
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Updated version of Supporting Special Needs: Understanding Inclusion In The Early Years (2003).
Tina Brand Volume 330 (2018) Suicide and Self-Injury. London, Cambridge: First published by Independence Educational Publishers, The Studio, High Green. Available from: Aberdeen College Library.
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Howard S. Becker (1966) Outsiders Studies in Sociology and Deviance, New York, NY 10020, THE FREE PRESS, A Division of Simon and Schuster Inc., Available from: http://www.books.google.co.uk (Downloaded 19 October 2019).
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