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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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What factors should be considered when trying to identify

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What factors should be considered when trying to identify abnormal behavior among children? Are there any childhood behaviors that can be considered abnormal regardless of age?

Hi, it's great to hear from you again.

If it is ok, I will work on your answer and get back to you as soon as I can.

Thank you,


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Here is your answer:

Abnormal behavior can be defined in children through identification of three primary factors. Any combination, or any significant single factor of these three can indicate abnormal behavior in a child:

1) Inefficiency: The child is unable to complete age appropriate tasks, personal goals or activities due to the behavior. Ex: The child is so obsessed with making his/her printed name “perfectly straight” on a school test that he/she does not have time left to finish the exam.

2) Discomfort: The child is emotionally or physically (on a regular basis) so upset that they cannot do what they wanted. Ex: The child is so worried about separating from his/her parents he/she cannot leave home to go to school (emotional discomfort) or they vomit so much (physical reaction) due to anxiety that they miss the school field trip which he/she wanted to attend.

3) Bizarreness: This is defined by any culture or subculture in the community that would see the child’s behavior as so far out of social norms that it is unacceptable. Ex: The child refuses to wear clothes, other than underwear, under any circumstances because they believe (not of healthy imagination or creativity) that other forms of clothing will poison them and they will die.

Abnormal regardless of age:

· Self harm that would result in death, disfigurement, or doing the same to others is always unacceptable.

· Not reaching normal and essential social milestones are critical as well. Ex: No ability to relate to others, extreme social isolation, treating people as objects, extreme cruelty to others, etc.

· Depression or mania that is so severe that the child cannot function is also included in this category as is psychotic thinking; e.g. hallucinations and delusions.

I hope this helps,


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