Of all the biological causes of emotional disorders, genetics is the most influential factor. Such disorders as Down syndrome and Lesch-Nyhan syndrome are good examples of genetically linked emotional and behavioral disorders. These disorders have such a debilitating effect on the child that they can deteriorate physical as well as emotional health of the entire family (Byrd, 1997).
Emotional and Behavioral disorders in children can be traced to a broad range of causes. They could be broadly classified as biological and environmental causes. The former includes such factors as genetic disposition and peri-natal conditioning, chemical imbalances, damages to the central nervous system, etc., while the latter includes such factors as schooling system, family and other cultural aspects. The remainder of this essay will foray into ways of identifying these factors, their consequences, and ways of mitigating them (Dodge, 1993)
Emotional disorders caused by family can take several shapes. For example, a child that is constantly exposed to domestic violence, sexual abuse, excessive insults, constant poverty and loss of a parent can develop symptoms related to anxiety and depressive disorders. Some tell-tale signs of family-induced psychological disorders are: an introverted personality, academic underperformance, poor social skills, juvenile delinquency, etc. Recognizing early signs can be difficult as the affected children can assume a normal external disposition (Dodge, 1993). Usually, the underlying problem comes to light only after a traumatic episode. Nevertheless, child counselors can play a significant role in remedying some of the emotional and behavioral patterns through application of such techniques as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Primal Therapy, etc. Medications such as lithium, Buspirone, Fluoxetine, Bupropion, etc. can also be useful but have to be used with caution. Also, medications don’t provide permanent cure but only temporary symptomatic relief. Hence, a prolonged counseling regime to change negative cognitive and behavior patterns is the most efficacious of the treatment options (Stewart, 1999).
Emotional disturbances that are caused by an unsuitable school environment are similar to those that are caused by chaotic family circumstances. Inappropriate corporal punishments, bullying by peers, lack of proper attention from teachers, etc., can make the child feel sad and lonely. The child is also likely to experience feelings of guilt and worthlessness. The afflicted child loses interest in favorite activities, loses appetite and suffers from insomnia. If such warning signs are not recognized early and rectified, the child may grow into an adult who is anti-social, hostile or even suicidal. The therapeutic means of addressing these set of Emotional Disorders is the same as the ones for family induced psychological ailments. But the best way of preventing such cases is to make systemic changes with the way schools are run in general. It is necessary for the school authorities to adopt policies that not only educate the children but also keep them psychologically healthy (Lemmey et. al., 2001).
Genetics play an important role in many Emotional Disorders. For example, eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia are found to have genetic causes. Psychological disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are another ailment caused by genes. A child suffering from ADD will exhibit little self-control, have low tolerance levels, get bored easily and perform inconsistently at school. Genes are a factor in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well. Although this is usually manifest in adults, some of the symptoms are evident in childhood as well. For example, the child will feel compelled to perform certain repetitive rituals in order to get relief from an anxious or paranoid thought. At the more extreme end, mental conditions such as Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are passed down from parent to child (Stewart, 1999).
The symptoms for these conditions are not easy to detect. Left unaddressed, they can develop into severe behavioral complications and may even lead to suicide. However, evaluating a child’s mental health through questionnaires prepared by DSM-4 are the most reliable ways of identifying these abnormalities. Unfortunately, there is no cure for these ailments. If genetically predisposed children can learn some coping techniques, then the severity of the condition during adulthood can be mitigated. Social Phobia is a unique disorder in that it could be caused by cultural factors (Lemmey et. al., 2001). If a child feels alienated and left-out from its peers and caretakers, then it feels intimidated and suspicious of people and develops a negative image of their culture. Medicines from the anti-depressant and anti-psychotic categories are usually effective, but only temporarily. Talk-therapy can be useful; so is educating family and friends of the affected child (Dodge, 1993).
Hence, a broad range of factors can contribute to the development of emotional disorders in children and adolescents. The primary caretakers in the family have an important role to play in preventing negative outcomes for the children. So do school authorities and teachers. Every child needs to be loved and cared for. If such basic necessities are absent or insufficient then the psychological as well as physical health of the child will decline.
Stewart, A (Nov 1999)., Brain Structure and Neuro-cognitive and Behavioral function in adolescents who were born very preterm., Pediatrics, 104, 5. p.1116
Dodge, K A (Annual 1993). Social-cognitive mechanisms in the development of conduct disorder and depression. Annual Review of Psychology, 44, p.559(26).
Lemmey, D., Malecha, A., McFarlane, J., Willson, P., Watson, K., Gist, J. H., Fredland, N., & Schultz, P. (May 2001). Severity of Violence Against Women Correlates with Behavioral Problems in Their Children.. Pediatric Nursing, 27, 3.. p.265.
Byrd, R S, Weitzman, M., & Auinger, P. (Oct 1997). Increased behavior problems associated with delayed school entry and delayed school progress. Pediatrics, 100, n4.. p.654(8).