Editor’s note: We did not use the boy’s real name in order to protect his privacy.
A few months back, video of a confrontation between a father and son in the bathroom ran through social media for a couple of weeks.
Comments by viewers regarding the video included, “I’d minus one son” and “His dad needs to beat him.”
Some placed blame on the parents for their parenting style.
But as a society, that’s what we do, right? We pass judgment without context or compassion. You can view the video for yourself on YouTube. (Full disclaimer: Some may find the video hard to watch and it uses vulgar language.)
Since I do not have direct knowledge of the situation, the comments placing blame on the parents might be true. But when I watch the video, I do not see a parenting failure. I see a kid suffering from disruptive behavior disorders.
We went through some similar challenges with our son, Mason, that I mentioned in a previous blog.
Foundation for disruptive behavior disorders
Before talking about specific diagnoses for these behaviors, we need to talk about Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Attention Deficit Disorder was officially recognized in 1980 and renamed ADHD in 1994 by the American Psychiatric Association.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016 there were about 6.1 million children in the U.S. diagnosed with ADHD. The disorder affects 3% to 5% of school-age children and presents with symptoms, such as:
- Difficulty paying attention
- Being overly active
- Difficulty controlling impulsive behaviors
- Acting out without thinking about the results of their actions
Three types of ADHD
It’s important to note that ADHD does not stem by sugar, too much TV, recognized parenting styles or socioeconomic status.
So why do kids get hyper after consuming sugar? It’s completely unrelated to the sugar. Rather, it’s due to expected behaviors put on the child, such as “Mom and dad are going to be mad that I gave you a candy bar because you’re going to be really hyper when you get home.”
The actual cause of ADHD is genetics. Other possible causes of this disruptive behavior disorder include brain injury, exposure to environmental toxins such as lead during pregnancy or at a young age, alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy, premature delivery or low birth weight.
According to CHADD, the three types of ADHD include:
Predominantly inattentive presentation — Children diagnosed with predominantly inattentive presentation have difficulty organizing and completing tasks. They also struggle to pay attention to details, follow instructions provided during conversations, get easily distracted and commonly forget details of their daily routines.
Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation — Those with predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation commonly fidget, talk a lot and have a hard time sitting still for long. Younger children can run, jump and climb constantly. They also feel restless, struggle with impulsivity that results in regularly interrupting others, grabbing items from others and speaking at inappropriate times. They have difficulty waiting their turn or listening to directions and tend to have more accidents and injuries.
Combined presentation — Some children have a combination of both types of presentation discussed above.
Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder
Now that we have laid the foundation, we can discuss the disruptive behavior disorders potentially related to the video I mentioned earlier — oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.
Oppositional defiant disorder presents in up to 50% of kids with ADHD. Oppositional defiant disorder is more common in boys, children of divorced parents and mothers with low socioeconomic status.
Conduct disorder presents with a more serious pattern of antisocial behavior occurring in up to 25% of children and 45% of adolescents. Conduct disorder also is more common in boys. Children with conduct disorder are twice as likely to struggle with reading and have a higher risk of social and emotional issues.
The two disruptive behavior diagnoses have some symptoms in common, including a defiance of authority, angry outbursts and antisocial behaviors (lying and stealing).
Differences between the disorders is symptom severity
Children diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder regularly lose their temper, argue with adults, refuse to comply with rules, deliberately try to annoy others, blame others for their mistakes and behavior, are easily annoyed by others and can be angry, resentful, spiteful and vindictive.
Conduct disorder includes more serious behaviors such as aggression toward people or animals, destruction of property, lying, stealing and skipping school. Unfortunately, these children tend to grow into adults with difficult lives and poor outcomes.
Thankfully, the non-aggressive symptoms increase with age while aggressive symptoms decrease.
Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder very commonly occur in children with ADHD. Experts, thus, recommend that all children diagnosed with ADHD undergo evaluation for both disruptive behavior disorders.
Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder symptoms are commonly masked by prescribed stimulant-based medications and the child might go undiagnosed.
Think before you judge disruptive behavior disorders
Next time you see a video such as the one discussed here, take a moment and consider the interaction might have nothing to do with parenting style and could be a psychiatric issue.
It will not do any good to “Knock the kid out!,” which would potentially open an entirely new can of worms with law enforcement and Child Protective Services.