Is It a Child Development Stage or a Serious Concern?

Do you wonder if that child problem that worries you is just a child development stage, or a more serious psychological concern?  You are not alone. Parents and professionals who work with children, adolescents and young adults  frequently question whether their concerns about a young person are just a normal stage of child development, or a concern they need to worry about and take steps to address. 

Adolescent and child problems span a range of concerns. These include learning, social and emotional problems, as well as behavior problems. Some children externalize their problems and show poor impulse control. They may act out in an angry, aggressive manner. Children who exhibit internalizing problems may appear withdrawn or passive and anxious and depressed.

To review a check-list of behaviors that can signal the possibility of a child problem that may not represent a normal child development stage, click here.

And remember "Understanding the Problem is the Key to Solving It." Dr. O'Connor's Psychological Assessments and School Neuropsychological Evaluations can increase your understanding of whether or not that concern in a young person that worries you is just a child development stage or a more serious concern.  

A Child Development Stage?

 When young people show the following traits and characteristics your concerns are more likely to represent a normal child development stage.

  • Strong caring relationships with adults.
  • Good social skills and effective relationships with peers.
  • Strong bonds with their family
  • Expectations of success and the ability to persist with tasks even when they are difficult.
  • The ability to regulate and manage their emotions, and respond to stress with age appropriate coping skills.

Children who are showing concerns that do not represent a normal child development stage may show some of the following concerns:     

  • Emotional Disturbance:  Symptoms of emotional disturbance, like excessive worry, fearfulness, sadness or pessimism. Everyone has these feelings sometimes. They signal the possibility of a mental health disorder when they are significantly more intense than is typical, and when the child has problems regulating their feelings and actions in response to these emotions. Adolescent and child sleep problems may also be at issue for young people who are showing poor outcomes.
  • Avoidance Behaviors: These include the active avoidance of certain people, places or situations that again appear extreme and atypical. Because the child avoids specific people, activities and situations she may appear non-compliant, stubborn or as if she has shut down.
  • Self-Injurious Behaviors: These include situations in which the child jeopardizes his physical well-being. He might show suicidal behaviors (like thinking about or planning suicide, making minor, or lethal attempts), or cutting behaviors, or under-eating or over-exercising in order to restrict body weight.
  • Peer Relationships: The child’s relationships are unusually intense or disturbing, and may include social isolation in which the child has very few peer friendships; relationships in which the child has many or unusually severe arguments and fights; peer bullying in which the child victimizes or is victimized by peers.
  • Impulsive Behaviors: The child is more likely than his peers to act impulsively and without thinking.  The child may be physically overactive and/or described as immature and acting like a younger child
  • Rules and Authority: The child frequently disobeys adult rules and is often defiant and/or hostile toward adults. In some cases the child engages in deliberately cruel or highly aggressive behavior toward peers and adults.

Use the resources below to help explore your concerns, and help  you determine whether the adolescent or child problems that concern you represent a typical child development stage, or  a more serious concern that warrants psychological support, or further consideration?

Free Articles:

This section includes free articles to help you learn more about child problems and how to help.

Click here, to access our "free articles".

What Do Parents Worry About?

This article provides an overview about the kinds of things parents worry about and that do not represent  a normal child development stage, but a more serious concern.

If you are worried about drug abuse and addictions and want to help your child, adolescent and young adult steer clear of these very worrisome concerns, please refer to The Parents Guide: How to Talk to Kids About Alcohol and Drugs.

Remember, "Understanding the Problem is the Key to Solving It." Increased understanding of the adolescent and child problems that worry you, will enhance your ability to help promote positive outcomes in the children you care about and work with.