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A study, published by Dr Sarah Musa, Community Medicine Specialist and Wellness-in-Charge at Rawdat Al-Khail Health Center of the Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC), has urged parents to recognise the reasons behind the behavioural changes in their children with the aim of obtaining early intervention and support to prevent them from advancing to chronic illness.
Dr Musa, in her paper published in Psychology Research and Behavior Management journal, explains that such behaviours interfere with the learning process in children or their social interaction with peers and adults. These include difficulty in concentrating, anxiety, persistent avoidance of activities, social withdrawal, crying and hiding, or aggressive expressions such as hitting, spitting, property destruction, fleeing and yelling.
Owing to the COVID-19 preventive measures, there has been a noticeable increase in challenging behaviours, depression, anxiety and change in sleep or eating patterns among children. Due to the fact that aggressive and anti-social behaviours may exist beyond the age of three years in up to 15 percent of preschool-age children, the study recommends early intervention.
The study sheds the light on the factors that influence children’s behaviour, including developmental, environmental and socio-cultural elements. Understanding those determinants as well as the normal developmental milestones that children go through during their life stages will help parents in controlling such behaviours, says the study. Some behaviours are typical of certain age. For example, physical aggression is commonly seen among children in the age group of 17-42 months, says the study.
The research highlights two effective tools for managing challenging behaviours, namely, functional behavioural assessment and positive behavioural support. These tools help in conducting a formal analysis of the behaviour to understand its root causes such as lack of social attention, escapism, boredom and anxiety. Following that, behavioural intervention plan is developed that shows a clear relationship between cause and effect, behavioural goals, a plan for developing a new behaviour and monitoring indicators to evaluate improvement.
Dr. Sarah mentions multiple interventions and strategies aiming to modify such behaviors including changing the antecedents or the consequences related to a behavior, replacement skills and positive behavioural support. For example, when a child escapes tooth-brushing, antecedent strategies could be used, such as providing the toothpaste with a flavor the child likes. The replacement skills include requesting a break from the current activity by saying ‘stop!’ or holding up his hand, while consequences strategy may include frequently praising the child for appropriate behaviours.
The study suggests enhancing parental capacity through training and empowering them to identify their own strengths to help develop positive parent-child interactions. Additional attention should be given to children who are more susceptible to mental health challenges.
The study offers a strategic template that facilitates a comprehensive approach, that comprises developmental screening, promotion, prevention, and intensive intervention through an individualized plan for each child and family.
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27/06/2022
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