Effects, Signs & Symptoms of Extreme Aggression

Even the most placid of children occasionally showcase the aggressive tendencies of a professional boxer. While a certain amount of aggression, shoving, and pushing is normal and expected of children – most notably when they are very young – a small subset of children use aggression as a means to cope with almost any situation. It’s important to understand that these extremely aggressive children aren’t bullies; they often pick fights with people who are stronger and larger than they are. These children do not face problems because they are aggressive but because they are aggressive in self-defeating and inappropriate times. Extremely aggressive children may argue with teachers, parents, and wind up in a number of fights with peers.

Aggression is one of the first responses to others that a young baby learns and grabbing, hitting, biting, and pushing are quite common in children who do not yet possess the verbal skills needed to appropriately make their needs and feelings known to others. Aggression after a certain age may be a symptom of underlying problems and is a very be a common behavior seen in a variety of psychiatric conditions, life circumstances, and medical problems. Children who have disorders such as bipolar disorder may become aggressive during manic phases, while children who have schizophrenia may lash out in response to internal stimuli. Children who have problems with cognition may have challenges expressing their feelings and become angry and aggressive out of frustration. Children who have disruptive behaviors such as ADHD may struggle with impulse control and act out without thinking about the consequences.

Parents who have an extremely aggressive child may be frustrated, feel responsible for their child’s temperament, and not know how to cope with extreme aggression. It’s important that an extremely aggressive child has a proper evaluation from pediatric specialists to determine what is driving the behavior so that proper treatment can begin. With the right amount of therapies and treatments, a highly aggressive child can learn techniques for emotional regulation, proper social skills, and learn to be successful in friendships and at school.

Co-Occurring Disorders

There are an array of co-occurring disorders that are known to exist in children who display extreme aggression. These include:

  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Frontal lobe damage
  • Epilepsy
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Autism
  • Conduct disorder

Causes

The causes for extreme aggression in children are as varied as the children who exhibit these behaviors. It’s thought that extreme aggression in children may be the result of several factors working together. The causes for aggression in children may include:

Physical: Some children may have easily-triggered extreme aggression as a result of their developing central nervous system and may be physiologically unable to control their impulses in the same manner other children can. These children seem to have a less developed nervous system than others their own age. Additionally, children who have frontal lobe damage or epilepsy may act out of aggression due to these medical problems.

Environmental: Children are often rewarded with attention for their aggressive behaviors, which reinforces this response to everyday situations that do not warrant aggression. Many children who are aggressive learned this behavior at home or at school and believe that the best way to confront any situation is through brute force. Additionally, overcrowding, stressful home environments, and cultural norms may influence a child’s aggressive tendencies.

Psychological: Children who struggle with mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, conduct disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia and other problems may exhibit aggressive tendencies as a result of his or her illness.

 If you feel that your child is in crisis, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Symptoms of Extreme Aggression in Children

The symptoms of extreme aggression in children will vary quite wildly from child to child based upon inborn temperament, problem-solving abilities, life experiences, and coping skills. Some of the most common symptoms of extreme aggression in children may include:

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Inability to sit still
  • Picking fights with those larger and older than the child
  • Extremely distractibility
  • Inability to control or regulate strong emotions
  • Pushing others out of the way to cut in line
  • Child engages in pushing, shoving, biting, kicking, slapping, or other types of harmful behaviors
  • Frequent fights with peers
  • Child steals or shoplifts
  • Child lies even when there is no reason to
  • Fire-starting
  • Excessive absenteeism
  • Destruction of property
  • Cruelty toward others
  • Child hurts and tortures animals

Physical Symptoms:

  • Epilepsy
  • Frontal lobe damage – congenital or acquired

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Lack of self-control
  • Difficulty staying on-task during school
  • Poor decision-making abilities
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Difficulties expressing emotions
  • Poor communication skills
  • Extreme impulsivity

Psychosocial Symptoms:

  • Extreme emotional swings
  • Difficulties reading social cues from others
  • Fearfulness of others
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Conduct disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Social isolation

Effects of Childhood Aggression

If childhood aggression is not properly treated, it can lead to a tremendous amount of problems in a growing child’s life. The pattern of aggressive behaviors may become more severe as time passes and an extremely aggressive adult will face many struggles in his or her life. Common effects of childhood aggression may include:

  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Deviant behaviors
  • Incarceration
  • Delinquency
  • Domestic violence or child abuse
  • Social isolation
  • Depression
  • Inability to remain gainfully employed
  • Self-harm
  • Reckless behaviors
  • Consequences of reckless behaviors
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors