Children who periodically fight with peers might be demonstrating anti-social tendencies.

Anti-Social Behaviors in Children

by Amy Pearson

Anti-social behaviors in children can stem from a number of issues, including abusive parenting, an inability to fit in with peers, emotional problems or low self-esteem. While many children might occasionally experience anti-social tendencies, ongoing troubling behaviors or significant behavioral changes should be addressed as soon as possible. Children who exhibit such behaviors might be at risk for developing anti-social personality disorder later in life, according to the Mayo Clinic website.


Anti-social children might bully others physically or emotionally to create an imbalance of power, according to They might force others do embarrassing things or cause physical pain. Peer cliques might demonstrate collective anti-social behaviors if they exclude other children, tease or make unwanted sexual comments or spread other hurtful rumors in person or online.


While it is not uncommon for very young children to lash out when frustrated, parents might have cause for concern when aggressive behaviors continue past the toddler years. Anti-social behaviors in children include kicking, punching, hitting or fighting with peers, siblings, parents or other authority figures. While most children begin to develop empathy for others and find alternate solutions to physical altercations, those exhibiting anti-social tendencies might not, reports the American Academy of Pediatrics'


Children with an inability to manage stress might withdraw socially and isolate themselves from peers and family members, a publication by the Virginia Cooperative Extension reports. Socially isolated children might be more easily aggravated by minor irritants and appear lazy or lethargic. Some children might be isolated from peers because of an inability to regulate their behaviors to match those around them. Children who have not had regular social interactions due to physical illness or disabilities might not have learned proper social competencies, the website LD Online states.


It is normal for young children to tell minor lies or exaggerate the truth from time to time, but lying can become an anti-social problem when it is ongoing and represents deeper emotional problems, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website. If children are not bothered by lying or regularly lie to take advantage or manipulate others, they are exhibiting anti-social and potentially detrimental behaviors.

Cause for Concern

Parents should contact their family's pediatrician if they become worried that their child is exhibiting anti-social behaviors, which can also include manipulativeness, impulsiveness and unnecessary risk-taking. The Mayo Clinic site recommends early intervention services, including family and individual therapy, to lessen the risk of being diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder later in life. Even if a child is later diagnosed with the disorder, therapeutic interventions will help him develop tools to manage it. If potentially anti-social behaviors are actually symptoms of a different disorder, therapists, counselors and pediatricians can help families find proper treatment.

About the Author

Amy Pearson earned dual bachelor's degrees in management and horticulture. She is a licensed elementary teacher for kindergarten through sixth grades. Pearson specializes in flower and vegetable gardening, landscape design, education, early childhood and child development.

Photo Credits

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