Symptoms of a disturbed character in a child are normally related to some kind of problem in the child’s home environment. The early signs of personality disorders in children are thought to be the result of a child’s temperament clashing with his or her family environment. Whereas one child might grow up into a well rounded adult despite a tough upbringing, another might develop all kinds of psychological disturbances. If caught early enough, a child displaying the early signs of a personality disorder can receive plenty of therapy, which makes it essential for anyone working with children to learn how to character disturbed children.
Children are all born with different personality traits and some are more sensitive than others. Whilst incidents of abuse, neglect and a dysfunctional childhood are more likely to lead to personality disorders and disturbed character traits in children, even children who grow up in relatively normal families can still develop the symptoms of a character disturbances.
Any child exhibiting signs of psychological disturbance will normally undergo a psychological assessment and in order to be classed as having a disturbed character, they would be expected to show problematic behavior in at least two of four categories: the child’s relationships with others, how they perceive the self and other people around them, the duration and intensity of their feelings to situations and how appropriate these are, and their ability to control their impulses.
Doctors will not normally diagnose personality disorders until a child has reached early adulthood, mainly because at an earlier age, a child’s personality is still in a state of development. However, some symptoms of personality disorders become evident from a young age and knowing how to character disturbed children can help secure the right treatment for these patients before the illness escalates.
Children displaying the symptoms of certain personality disorders, in particular sociopathy and borderline disorders, are much more likely to end up in trouble with the law than other children. For example, a sociopath will often exhibit high levels of cruelty to animals as well as a lack of regard for authority and rules.
The DSM-IV (a categorization system for mental health disorders) states that a child showing signs of conduct disorder and attention deficit disorder before the age of 10 is at a higher risk of developing an antisocial personality disorder.
What types of symptoms in children are a sign of a possible personality disorder?
Children who appear eccentric or odd to others can sometimes be showing the early signs of a paranoid, schizoid or schizotypal personality disorder. Overly emotionally children or those who are emotionally unstable or self-dramatizing are potentially borderline, narcissistic, antisocial or histrionic. Overly anxious or tense children might be dependent, obsessive-compulsive, or avoidant, although children showing the signs of a disturbed character might exhibit symptoms that fit more than one type of personality disorder.
Apart from personality disorders and character problems caused by a dysfunctional childhood, other conditions likely to lead to signs of abnormal behavior in children include attention deficit disorder, autism, and attachment disorder.