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Can 7-yo Boy Have Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Question:

My 7-year-old grandson appears to hate his little brother, who is 4 years old. He has continuously hit, punched, tripped, kicked and otherwise hurt his little brother since the brother was 2 weeks old, when he poked him in the stomach with the sharper end of a curtain rod. Although the baby cried at that time, he did not appear to have internal injury, based on no further problems or crying. My daughter and her husband are now trying to curb this violence as the younger brother is beginning to fee he is "bad" and should "die", based apparently on the fact that his older brother has been allowed to hurt him with little or no consequences for four years. The older brother appears to feel no remorse at all and nothing seems to get through to him that this behavior must stop. Any ideas? Help!

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Answer:

Given the fact that personality disorder take years to develop after having learned patterns of behavior that are destructive it is not likely that a 7 year old can have a personality disorder. In addition, it is all too common for brothers to beat on each other when they are young. You know, the older boy is "loving his younger brother to death."

You make a statement in your E. Mai question that seems almost accidental. You state that the older brother has been "allowed to hurt the younger boy with little or no consequences." That is probably a large part of what is causing the difficulty. Small children can be extremely aggressive, biting, hitting, poking and punching other children. If left unchecked, they will even hit their mothers and fathers. It is extremely unlikely that your grandson hates his brother but only displays aggression that is not stopped.

It is almost tragic that the seven year old would get the reputation of being the "bad child." First, there is no such thing as a "bad child" but only a child who is not being taught socially acceptable behaviors. Children need adults to help them learn how to navigate the world so that they can make healthy adjustments to adolescence and adulthood.

Yes, the parents must teach the seven year old to control his anger, violence and aggressive behavior. They also need to adopt healthy and helpful training methods to help him learn the corrrect ways to behave. In other words, it is not helpful to hit or spank any child in order to get them to stop their aggressive behaviors. Parental hitting, spanking and other harsh punishments only teach children to behave in the same ways.

The parents need to learn about and use positive reinforcements to help him learn. Reward systems, whereby a child is taught by being given rewards for desired and helpful behaviors are extremely helpful.

If this does not work then it may be necessary for the parents to seek therapy with a child psychologist. When a child persists in being aggressive even when the parents are doing the best they can to help the child it indicates that something is wrong. He may be experiencing a lot of anxiety or depression and children express those emotions in non verbal ways such as hitting. There could be other things bothering him including that he may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The parents need to get help instead of labeling their older son as "bad."

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