Assessment of Inappropriate Behavioral Development It is far easier to measure a child's physical growth and maturation than to assess the complexities of individual differences in children's disruptive and antisocial development. Pediatricians can clearly record increases in a child's weight and height on growth charts and even provide percentile estimates indicating how a child compares to others at the same age. Measuring and interpreting acceptable versus unacceptable and normal versus abnormal behaviors among children and adolescents are far more complex.
Children and adolescents often test the limits of appropriate conduct by crossing the boundaries set by caretakers. When a youth exhibits a particular problem behavior, it is important to consider not only if the behavior has previously occurred, but also if it is exhibited in multiple settings and with what frequency, duration, intensity, and provocation. For example, a 2-year-old who playfully nips a playmate is less off the mark of developmentally appropriate behavior than a 4-year-old who aggressively and frequently bites playmates to forcefully gain possession of desired toys.
Among adolescents, a certain degree of misbehavior, experimentation, or independence seeking is common. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association (1994) indicates that "New onset of oppositional behaviors in adolescence may be due to the process of normal individuation." On the other hand, youth who persistently and progressively engage in problem behaviors with significant impairment in personal development, social functioning, academic achievement, and vocational preparation are of great concern to caretakers. Also of concern is the broad category of "antisocial behaviors" that have an appreciable harmful effect on others, in terms of inflicting physical or mental harm on others or causing property loss or damage.
The Semantics of Disruptive and Delinquent Behavior A mother finds parenting exhausting and describes her 7-year-old son as extremely energetic, frequently switching from one play activity to...