A large area of research in developmental psychology has been dedicated to identifying a primary cause for the development of disturbed and disturbing behavior as well as its comprehensive definition. Difficulties are due to the complexity of the several factors involved in its development and different models are used to account for causes including medical, social environment and transactional.This essay will briefly examine issues regarding definition, diagnosis and measurements of developmental difficulties and further, will investigate relevant models and the concepts of multiple pathways of difficult behavior, risk factors and resilience.
Defining what constitutes disturbing or disturbed behaviour and how we define these terms, is a difficult line of investigation before even looking into the causes. What is disturbing to one may not be to another, personal opinion and experiences as well as cultural contexts can raise the question of whose problem is it and where does it originate.The phrase ‘disturbed and disturbing behaviour’ is deeply ambiguous and each view reflects a different aspect of the relationship between children’s emotional, social and behavioural development and their social environment (Woodhead et al 2009 p. 58-9). In this essay difficult behavior refers to psychological abnormalities and manifestions of behavioural, cognitive and emotional responses which are inappropriate in intensity, frequency and persistence and have no obvious organic root such as chromosomal abnormalities, metabolic disorders or autistic spectrums of disorders (Woodhead et al 2009 p.
59). These expressions of difficulty are inheritably unstable and associated with developmental issues related to particular age groups. Rating scales are widely used to assess these kinds of disturbed behavior, completed by parents, teachers and others but precise classifications of problems and measurements of their incidence are not straightforward as problems are context-embebbed and normatively defined. There is no universal standard, nor any clear set of rules defining children with behavioural difficulties.The main issue here is that normality comprises a wide range of ways of functioning fitting within broad boundaries of social or moral acceptability for particular age groups including the major issue of continuity and the clustering of problems (Woodhead 2009 p. 69).
Determining why children develop disturbed and disturbing behaviour, requires consideration for various aspects of a child’s life. Psychologists have carried out significant research in relation to children’s behaviour development.Specific causes have been associated with the development of what can also be termed ‘problem’ behaviour; these can generally be categorized into two perspectives. The first developmental model (medical) holds the view that difficulties are located within the child and are part of the psychological make-up. This view dominated the middle decades of the twentieth century, but was subject to much criticism such as that the expression of emotional and behavioural problems is argued to be the product of developmental processes, taking place in the context of social relationships (Woodhead 2009).
The second model, social environment, stresses to reflect on ‘disturbed’ patterns of parental care and much attention is being paid to issues such as impoverished home circumstances, inadequate or abusive parental care and lack of discipline (Woodhead 2009 p. 58). Neither perspective provides a satisfactory account of the development of disturbed behavior as it is a complex, continuous transaction between different sources of influence, leading to the transactional model.One of the central concepts in current child development is that of the child influencing its own development, i.
e. not just being a passive receiver of externally determined experiences. Bell (1968) and Sameroff and Chandler (1975) are widely recognized as bringing this transactional model to the fore. Under this model the child plays a significant role in producing its own experiences both directly by its own selection of activities but, more importantly by the influence its behaviour has upon caretakers (Woodhead 2009).The study of temperament has emphasized the significance of individual differences in temperament in relation to specific environments. For instance, a child who is very low on adaptability and very high on rhythmicity using will have a more aversive experience if cared for by parents who are very erratic in their pattern of child care.
The same child will be well suited to parents who are more regular in their routines of eating and sleeping, suggesting that the impact of temperament ondevelopment has to be analysed as an interaction between the child’s characteristics and features of the environment including parenting. One of the most extensive research studies with this goodness of fit orientation is that of Lerner and colleagues. The ‘goodness of fit’ concept emphasizes the need to consider both the characteristics of individuality of the person and the demands of the social environment. If a person’s characteristics of individuality match, or fit, the demands of a particular social context then positive interactions and adjustment are expected.In contrast, negative adjustment is expected to occur when there is a poor fit between the demands of a particular social context and the person’s characteristics of individuality.
Much psychological research and theory has been linked to wider cultural beliefs in the responsibility of parents especially mothers for child development as a part of risk factors such as social background, parental attitudes towards the child, mother’s mental state, fathers behavior and the marital relationship.Experimental studies of disrupted maternal sensitivity illustrate the potential impact of maternal depression on child development and are strongly associated with infant’s formation of attachment used as early indicators of behavior difficulties as well as contribute to the cycle of disturbed relationships. Further research findings suggest that post natal depression can be linked to insecure attachment styles but also points out that there is no simple causal relationship between depression, responsiveness and the child’s disturbed behavior. Moreover, it is considered as a part of a network of risk factors (Woodhead 2009 p.72).
Parents and their children develop internal working models, sets of beliefs and expectations about each other’s actions and intentions and their relationship. Bor et al, 2003, claim that negative attitudes towards the 6 month old infant increases the likelihood of problem behavior as a five year old and is particularly true for boys (Woodhead 2009,p. 73). MacKinnon-Lewis et al 1992, illustrates and builds on the model of pathways to antisocial behavior, arguing that weak parenting skills encourage the child to become non-compliant to parental requests, making unreasonable demands on parents and others.The therefore growing negative attention to child’s inappropriate behavior combined with the failure to rewards positive behavior produces an escalating cycle of parent-child conflict (Woodhead 2009 pp.
74-5). Further, the history of research focused exclusively on mother’s roles regarding their child’s problem behavior. Paternal antisocial behavior is now known to be associated with childrens behavioural difficulties while being mediated by factors including social and ecological disadvantages, violence and alcohol and drug problems (Woodhead 2009,p.76). Additionally is it stresses that the absence or low involvement of fathers can be associated with poor psychological outcomes for children. It is of significance to reaffirm that the relationship between the fathers involvement and the development of disturbing behavior is only one of a set of multiple pathways and it mustn’t be forgotten that children are producers of their own development (Woodhead et al 2009 p.
77).Conventional beliefs about the impact of parenting on the child have been modified by re-analyses of directions of effect as originally indicated by the social environment perspective and although links between parents permissiveness and punitiveness and aggressive behavior in children’s have been supported by research, there are unexpected directions of effect (Woodhead et al 2009 p. 79). Drug therapy on mother-child interaction in children with ADHD illustrates the potential impact of child variables and the development of disturbed behavior.
It is about mutual influence at the basis of problem behavior as characteristics of the child can contribute to family stress, changing parental attitudes and shaping maternal behavior. Children play an active role in the process of development (woodhead et al 2009 p. 80). The transactional model best encapsulates processes involved in the development of childrens psychological difficulties, illustrated by the interaction between infant temperament and environmental support in terms of ‘goodness to fit’.Further, the concepts of vulnerability, protective mechanisms, gateways and amplification have been applied to research into the mutual influence of temperament, maternal responsibility and social support on the security of attachment. Other important aspects regarding behavioural difficulties are the protective factors such as intelligence.
Higher IQ has shown to enable children to cope better with adverse life events, being able to find alternative solutions to problems, and particularly for boys.Studies have reported a gender difference in the mediating impact of IQ and found that boys higher IQ protected again from later criminality (Woodhead et al 2009 p. 83) Throughout the research on behavior problems it became clear that gender is a key variable suggesting that biological, environmental and social-cultural factors contribute to such gender differences resulting in different expectations of boys and girls and the development of specific disturbing behaviours.Taking all evidence of research studies regarding different developmental models such as medical, social environmental and transactional models about the origins of disturbing behavior as well as concepts including multiple pathways, risk factors and resilience into account this essay reaches the conclusion that the definition and measurement of disturbing behavior needs to be considered in a variety of contexts and that no one single perspective can account for the development of such problem behaviours.It is a complex interplay of several factors such as the characteristics of the child, characteristics of the parents and the particular circumstances which lead to the occurrence of developmental difficulties.