Child of Rage

by Anonymous

Hostile Early Life Experiences Lead to Behavioural Problems & Conduct Disorder in Children

Hostile Early Life Experiences Lead to Behavioural Problems & Conduct Disorder in Children

Baby just turned 6 months and all of a sudden throwing little fits of rage.

Her eyes get big and her entire body goes into a quick shake. She clenches her fists and grits her teeth, like a 2 year old throwing a fit of anger.

I'm very concerned, frightened and am panicking. Please help!

Thank you Doc.

The Expert, Ren Chats Answers

Rage is reactive anger:

Your 6 months old girl, with all her limitations in communication abilities, is trying to tell you something. Something that is causing her considerable distress, but has escaped your attention. You need to notice what brings about these outbursts of rage in the infant.

Children of rage are commonly looked upon as brats, who face severe disciplinary actions with little benefit if any. Rage is reactive anger, usually seen in 1 to 4 years old. It is not motivated by a need to meet desired goal.

The phenomenon of social referencing:

Babies are very perceptive. Their perception of accepted social conduct is based on the meanings provided by the behaviour of other people. If they see a member of the family being favoured for his/her angry expressions, they would identify angry outbursts as a means of effective communication, and thus adopt the behaviour.

Right from day one of life infants learn from what they see, hear and experience. As they interact with people around them, they gain rich and long-lasting experiences, which mould their behaviour and temperament.

Emotional reactivity and regulation:

Frustration is a part of normal daily life, more frequently so for infants who have to depend on others to meet their needs. Moreover, caregivers often do things without any consideration for what the baby may be wanting at that point of time. For example, abruptly interrupt an interaction, snatch away a toy, or abruptly decide that it is time for the baby to go to sleep.

At such loss of control on situation, infants develop negative emotions. They then express anger in hope to direct caregiver to restore progress towards their desired goal, but often fail. Eventually, they calm their negative feelings by withdrawing their attention from the source frustration.

They engage themselves on an alternative activity that is within their easy reach, such as sucking their thumb or fingers to sooth themselves.

The good outcome of this is that by these means infants learn to regulate their negative emotions. The modulation of heightened emotions is known as "Emotional Regulation".

Development of the ability to control one’s emotions is a lifelong process.
During infancy, it is at very early stages of evolution, when the environment in which child is brought up and her social experiences strongly influence its development.

Child of rage needs thorough medical evaluation:

Complete history, including child’s daily routines, sleep cycles, perinatal and developmental information need to be assessed. Parents’ social insecurity and economical stress can affect their infant’s moods. Careful analysis of child’s appetite and activity status may help rule out associated problems.

A thorough examination is also essential to identify child abuse, underlying illness, brain injury, and genetic disorders. Good observation of child’s behaviour by a professional may throw light on autism spectrum disorders, and more.

Laboratory evaluation to assess iron deficiency and lead blood levels, and audiometry for hearing loss are a must.

Can angry outbursts be a sign of underlying medical problem? :

Situational frustration along with inability to express their feelings in words sets in angry outbursts in majority of infants (of 6 months and above) and toddlers. To a large extent they are a part of child’s psycho-social and personality development.

Nevertheless, temper that is excessive for the age or situation usually indicates emotional distress. Though this is commonly attributed to unkind experiences from the environment, it could also be from physical suffering, which the child cannot express in words.

Rare medical problem indeed could be an underlying cause for fits of rage in a few. Therefore medical consultation is strongly indicated in every child of rage.

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