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Running Head: RISK FACTORS FOR CHALLENGING BEHAVIOR IN YOUNG CHILDREN

Risk Factors for Challenging Behavior in Young Children


Kristin Lyng
ECE201
Instructor Krach-Hoge
09/22/2014

Risk Factors

Parents, caregivers, and educators have always been faced with challenging behaviors in
young children. It is when these behaviors are constant, not age-appropriate, and a threat to the
childs social relationships with their peers which in turn affects their overall learning and
development that it needs immediate attention and strategies put in place to help the child
overcome this. A typical age-appropriate challenging behavior would be a two-year-old not
wanting to share a toy and/or them biting someone that may be using something they want; this
is just a part of development, as they grow they will learn that it is inappropriate and that they
must use words to solve problems. An atypical challenging behavior would be a five-year-old
doing this same thing without them having had learned to use their words to problem-solve and
are unable self-regulate their emotions and behavior. This atypical challenging behavior could
be caused by a combination of a variety of biological influences from within the child and
environmental influences from everyone and everything in their world.
Personally I have had experiences with both typical and atypical challenging behaviors in
young children from being a parent and from doing volunteer work. What I have seen is that
these children that display atypical challenging behaviors do not mean to behave in that way. It
is like they have no control over it and during the times when they are not displaying those
behaviors they are not able to understand why their peers will not play with them or sit by them.
This hurts your heart to see this cycle go round: the other children may become afraid of the
child displaying challenging behaviors because they are unpredictable, which only secludes the
child more. I was surprised the most in my experience that the child displaying the challenging
behavior was more likely to listen to what I had to say and would try really hard to behave
appropriately for me, but not for their parent or teacher. I am not sure if this was because I was a

Risk Factors

new face or that I may have reacted differently to their behavior than other adults in the childs
life. My whole life I have rooted for the underdog. I think that some of these children may be
used to getting a negative response and when they dont get that it kind of stops them in their
tracks and maybe makes them pay attention. Either way, for one reason or another, some
children just end up with more risk factors for challenging behavior than others. This paper will
describe three of these risk factors and analyze strategies teachers may use to support changing
the challenging behaviors in the child.
Some risk factors occur before the child is even born, such as the childs temperament.
Each of us is born with our very own temperament and youll usually hear moms talking about
how their baby is so easy or just difficult; this is their childs temperament. It is how they
naturally, involuntarily respond to their environment. Is a child fearful of strange people or
things, hard to soothe or uninhibited and not fearful of anything? Mary Rothbart describes three
temperaments that are associated with challenging behavior as negative emotionality,
extraversion/surgency, and effortful control (Kaiser & Raminsky, 2012).
Although all three are extremely different without the right environmental influences they
can all lead to challenging behavior in young children. A child that has a negative emotionality
temperament easily shows their negative emotions and are difficult to soothe, which can lead to
the child being defiant, rejected by their peers, and a tendency toward anxiety and depression
diminishes their chance of learning the social and emotional skills they need (Kaiser &
Raminsky, 2012). Children with an extraversion temperament are cheerful, curious, impulsive,
and likely to take risks, which can lead to the child being aggressive, not afraid of punishment,
and unable to develop empathy, guilt, or a conscience (2012). Lastly, effortful control is not a
separate form of temperament as it works along with the childs temperament beginning at

Risk Factors

around a year old. This includes two key abilities: the ability to focus and shift attention
voluntarily; and the ability to inhibit or activate behavior in order to adapt to a situation,
especially when a child doesnt want to (2012). Effortful control can work for or against a
childs behavior depending on how strong or weak their own personal effortful control is, as a
child blessed with strong effortful control can manage very powerful emotional and behavioral
reactions, whereas a child who has little effortful control may struggle to regulate even relatively
weak feelings and impulses throughout childhood (2012). The good news is that a childs
temperament does not have to define who they are, because What matters most is how the
environmentincluding teachersresponds to them (2012). This is described by Thomas and
Chess as goodness of fit. As a teacher you need to know your own temperament, be able to
identify and understand the childs temperament, then give expectations, and allow for
experiences that fit them to teach how to self-regulate, make friends, be empathetic, and follow
rules (2012). Without a goodness of fit, the teacher and the child will clash and no one will be
successful.
Another risk factor that is that of the childs, a biological influence, is a language or
speech disorder. There has been found to be a 50% overlap between language delays and
behavior problems (Kaiser & Raminsky, 2012). Personally this one is a giveaway as to why it
would be a risk factor for challenging behavior, because if a child just has a speech impairment
and cannot speak clearly and intelligibly it is frustrating for them to not be understood and then
other children can be mean, which only leads to the child isolating themselves, being antisocial,
and lashing out. It is stated that the link between verbal impairment and antisocial outcomes is
one of the largest and most robust effects in the study of antisocial behavior (2012). These
children are not only suffering academically, but they are unable to have friends to develop

Risk Factors

social skills, which further hurts their self-esteem (2012). It just becomes easier for them to use
challenging behaviors to be heard and understood.
Lastly, an environmental risk factor influence is the childs family and the parenting style
that is utilized by his or her parents. Your family is the closest ones to you, so it only makes
sense that how it can influence a young childs behavior. Things such as having a young mother,
an uneducated mother, marital conflict, a single parent, or financial hardship are all influences on
the parent-child relationship (Kaiser & Raminsky, 2012). When infants are unable to form a
secure attachment due to their mother being unresponsive and unloving, they grow up not being
able to trust, regulate their emotions, and feel worthy of love, which leads to a negative effects
on the childs future relationships and challenging behavior (2012). When parents are under
stressful conditions such as money troubles or marriage problems, they are emotionally
unavailable, they cant help their children learn social and emotional skills, regulate their
feelings and behavior, or feel safe and supported and may use harsh and punitive parenting
practices that are strongly associated with both direct and indirect aggressive behavior in
children (2012). This parenting is called coercive, because it leads to the parents giving in on
the simplest of beginning request of the child or yelling and screaming at the child, which also
stops the child and neither is good because the parents are rewarding the behavior when they
give in and modeling inappropriate behavior when they lose it (2012). Either way when the
child goes to school they are lacking social skills to make friends so they are antisocial, they feel
threatened so they are aggressive, and they may not listen to the teacher or challenge the teacher
so they are not going to be learning academically.
All three of these risk factors alone or even worse together can influence a childs
challenging behavior. But with consistency, persistence, understanding, and most importantly

Risk Factors

loving support a teacher can work to help change these challenging behaviors. Sometimes its
hard to look past the challenging behavior, but by instead of noticing what a child does wrong,
stop and think about his strengths and likeable qualities, what hes good at, what positive
contributes he can make, and how you can create opportunities for him to realize whatever he
has to offer is key to making headway with changing a childs challenging behavior (Kaiser &
Raminsky, 2012). The teacher needs to observe and document the childs behavior by asking
yourself and noting what, where, when, how, and with whom is the behavior occurring? and
what is the child communicating that he wants or needs? or what is the purpose of the childs
behavior? so you can find what is the meaning of the childs behavior? (U. S. Department of
Health and Human Services, Head Start Bureau, 2006). These questions give insight to whats
causing this behavior in the child. When an understanding is made it shuts down any negative or
frustrated feelings the teacher may have had and allows them to feel for that child, and then its
time to work with the other staff, the family, and/or mental health advisors to make a plan. A
few helpful tricks to incorporate in any plan are to be simply telling the child what you want
from them, actively engaging them, and providing them with various alternatives to their target
behavior (2006). By no means does change happen overnight when working on challenging
behaviors and there may be multiple behaviors that need to be worked through one at a time with
the most pressing first.
In conclusion, challenging behaviors are influenced by many biological and
environmental factors that young children do not have any control over so its not hard to believe
that when faced with these risk factors they dont have any control over their responses and
behaviors to the world. This paper has identified and described three risk factors that influence
challenging behaviors and gave strategies teachers can use to support the child in changing these

Risk Factors

behaviors. But what I found that matters most is that at least one caring person accepts and
supports the child and I can be that one person (Kaiser & Raminsky, 2012). As a teacher it
would be my job to identify what is typical and atypical challenging behavior, observe to
discover the reasoning behind a childs challenging behavior, and be capable of implementing
strategies to help the child through it to more positive behaviors.

Risk Factors

Reference
Kaiser, B. & Raminsky, J. S. (2012). Challenging behavior in young children (3rd Ed.) Upper
Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc.
U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Head Start Bureau (2006). What is
developmentally appropriate - and what is a concern? (Technical Assistance Paper No.
10). Retrieved from
http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/hs/resources/ECLKC_Bookstore/PDFs/TA10%5B1%5D
.pdf