Adapted from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP):

There is a great concern about the incidence of violent behavior among children and adolescents. This complex and troubling issue needs to be carefully understood by parents, teachers, and other adults.

Children as young as preschoolers can show violent behavior. While it can be developmentally normal for toddlers and very young children to hit or bite peers or caregivers, violent behavior in a child at any age should always be taken seriously. It should not be quickly dismissed as “just a phase they’re going through!”

Violent behavior in children and adolescents can include a wide range of behaviors: explosive temper tantrums, physical aggression, fighting, threats or attempts to hurt others (including thoughts of wanting to kill others), use of weapons, cruelty toward animals, fire setting, intentional destruction of property and vandalism.

If you are concerned about a child or teen’s violent behavior, arrange for a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. Pediatricians can refer you to qualified professionals in your area.

Treatment can help children and teens learn to change their behavior and cope with underlying feelings that may be triggering their violent actions. Treatment typically focuses on helping the child to learn how to control his/her anger and express it in appropriate ways; take responsibility for his/her actions; and accept consequences. In addition, any family conflicts, school problems, and community issues must be addressed.

Learn more about the causes of and treatment for violent behavior in children and teens at the AACAP website below: