Children acquire many skills as they grow. Some skills, such as controlling urine and stool, depend mainly on the level of maturity of the child's nerves and brain. Others, such as behaving appropriately at home and in school, are the result of a complicated interaction between the child's physical and intellectual (cognitive) development, health, temperament, and relationship with parents, teachers, and caregivers.
Behavioral and developmental problems can become so troublesome that they threaten normal relationships between the child and others. Some behavioral problems, such as bed-wetting, can be mild and resolve quickly. Other behavioral problems, such as those that arise in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD—see Learning and Developmental Disorders: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), can require ongoing treatment. Most of the problems described in this chapter arise out of developmentally normal habits that children easily acquire. The goal of treatment is to change undesirable habits by getting children to want to change their behavior. This goal often takes persistent changes in actions by the parents, which in turn result in improved behaviors by the children.
Last full review/revision February 2009 by Stephen Brian Sulkes, MD