Causes of Behavior Problems in Children

All kids act up, but sometimes there is an underlying problem that contributes to the inappropriate behavior. There are also some behavior disorders and certain behavioral issues that could signify mental health or development issues. 

After you read through these causes and different issues that may exist, you probably want to know how to handle difficult child behavior. You want to curb the negative behaviors in the best way possible for your child. It is important to take action while remaining calm and taking your child’s feelings into consideration. If you are unable to find a viable solution, you may also want to think about therapy or other professional interventions. 

There are a lot of different things that can cause behavior problems in children, and they often work together. However, it is still good to be aware of potential underlying causes so that you can address those issues in order to help your child while also helping them behave appropriately. 


Anxiety can cause kids to act out. They may try to escape a situation or experience that causes them nervousness or anxiety, which can come out as tantrums or agitation. Depending on the trigger for the anxiety, they may be more prone to outbursts at school, at friend’s houses, or at home. 


ADHD is known for causing difficulty with concentration and disruptions. This makes it one of the primary contributors to poor behavior in children. It can lead a child to ignore teachers or parents and they may even through a tantrum or refuse to do what they are told. ADHD is fairly common in children and is almost always easily treatable.

Learning Disorders 

Learning disorders can make a child feel frustrated with their schoolwork or even with their social life. This increased frustration can lead to outbursts or refusal to cooperate. They may feel like they are unable to do the same things as their peers or fear that they are not intelligent enough. They may also be afraid to speak up for fear of being disregarded because they feel like they are not as smart as other children their age. 

Sensory Processing Issues

Some children have difficulty processing sensory information, which can cause their senses to become overwhelmed easily. This might make them have a tantrum or meltdown, especially in situations with a lot of stimuli. This can cause them to begin to act out. This can also result in them refusing to eat or to try new foods. Sensory processing problems may also cause a child to resist change in their daily routine. 


Depression in children often comes from disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, or DMDD. This can cause children to be overly irritable. They may view things from a pessimistic or wholly negative point of view and have tantrums over seemingly insignificant situations or experiences. 


Children with autism are often more likely to have behavior issues, especially when there is a sudden, unexpected change to their routine. They may also be unable to adequately express themselves and let you know about their needs. 


Trauma and abuse can make it harder for children to manage their emotions and cope with difficult situations or conflict. They may get upset easier than their peers and may act out. It is important for them to have healthy role models moving forward and to learn how to deescalate frustrating or anxiety-provoking situations and strong emotions. 

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional defiant disorder, ODD, is characterized by disobedience to any authority figures. This type of behavior is normal during certain developmental stages, it should not become overly hostile or frequent. If a child is having frequent tantrums or regularly arguing with adults or annoying them, then it could be a sign that they have ODD. 

Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is characterized by a pattern of inappropriate actions that break social rules or constrict other people’s rights. It can involve aggression and hostile behavior, destruction of other people’s property, lying, stealing, and risk-taking behavior. 

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Intermittent Explosive Disorder involves violent and destructive behaviors. These hostile behaviors may begin from something that should not warrant that type of behavior. It could be something entirely insignificant that causes a child to act aggressively and violently towards other people or to property. The child may also develop impulsive and risk-taking behaviors. 

Common Behavior Problems

Behavior problems can range from mild to severe, but there are some different types of problems that can become persistent throughout the development stages. Some of them are easier to address than others and many times a child will have multiple behavior problems at the same time. Different children and different problems may also require different types of intervention and guidance. 

Lying problems can cause frustration in parents and authority figures. Children lie for a few different reasons. Sometimes they may be lying just to get out of trouble for something they did. Other times they may lie to feel better about themselves or to get attention that they crave. Try to encourage honesty by using strict consequences for lying, more than if they tell the truth. 

Defiance is another common behavior problem. It can be normal during the toddler ages and teen years. It can be difficult to find a way to address the defiant behavior. Children often become defiant to test the limits of their parents or teachers. Try to stay consistent with the things you allow them to do and only allow them to do things like watch tv or play outside when they listen to you. 

Another very common behavior problem revolves around the foods a child will or won’t eat. A child may be a picky eater or may always try to eat food when they are not allowed to like before dinner or lunch. It is important to help your child develop a healthy attitude towards food. Try to encourage them to eat healthy foods and model healthy eating behaviors and portion control around them. 

Children often develop behavior problems associated with bedtime or naptime. They may refuse to go to bed or try to sleep with you. Or they may throw tantrums prior to bedtime that make it hard for them to relax until well past the time you want them to go to sleep. You should try your best to develop and maintain a healthy routine for bedtime so that they know when it is getting close. You may even remind them when they have 5 or 10 minutes before they have to go to bed so that it does not surprise them. 

Finally, temper tantrums are something almost every parent has to deal with at one point or another. They are most common with young children and can be difficult to address. They may even develop into more aggressive behavior, which may need to be addressed with strict consequences. 

Ignoring temper tantrums or whining is a great way to handle this type of behavior. This will teach them that they will not get what they want by screaming or acting out. You can combine this with teaching manners to let them know how to properly and effectively get what they want or need. 

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.


A lot of children have behavior problems, and all children behave inappropriately sometimes. It is important to recognize the difference between behavior problems and problem behaviors. If there is a consistent or severe problem, then you may need to consider underlying causes of the behavior issue.

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