Friday, September 01, 2006

Types, Explanations and Effects of Disruptive Behaviour

Point 1: Hyperkinetic Disorders

Hyperkinetic disorders always arise early in development (usually in the first 5 years of life). Their chief characteristics are lack of persistence in activities that require cognitive involvement, and a tendency to move from one activity to another without completing any one, together with disorganized, ill-regulated, and excessive activity. These problems usually persist through school years and even into adult life, but many affected individuals show a gradual improvement in activity and attention.

Several other abnormalities may be associated with these disorders. Hyperkinetic children are often reckless and impulsive, prone to accidents, and find themselves in disciplinary trouble because of unthinking (rather than deliberately defiant) breaches of rules. Their relationships with adults are often socially disinhibited, with a lack of normal caution and reserve; they are unpopular with other children and may become isolated. Cognitive impairment is common, and specific delays in motor and language development are disproportionately frequent.

One well known example is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sometimes inaccurately referred to as ADD (There is no clinical term by this name) is a disorder usually first diagnosed in infancy, childhood or adolescence. There are 4 recognized types of ADHD. They are: Predominantly inattentive type; Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type; Combined type (inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity); and ADHD - Not otherwise specified. There is a high level of correlation between children with ADHD and other psychiatric illnesses.

Point 2: Conduct Disorders

These are essentially disorders where the person violates the social norms and rights of others. Those with these types of disorder are habitually in trouble, either with parents, teachers or peers. Despite presenting a tough image to those around them, they have a low self-esteem. Their frustration tolerance, irritability, temper outbursts and recklessness are hallmarks. Conduct Disorder may lead to adult antisocial personality disorder.

A specific example is Unsocialised Conduct Disorder. This type of conduct disorder is characterized by the combination of persistent dissocial or aggressive behaviour, with a significant pervasive abnormality in the individual's relationships with other children.

The lack of effective integration into a peer group constitutes the key distinction from "socialized" conduct disorders and this has precedence over all other differentiations. Disturbed peer relationships are evidenced chiefly by isolation from and/or rejection by or unpopularity with other children, and by a lack of close friends or of lasting empathic, reciprocal relationships with others in the same age group. Relationships with adults tend to be marked by discord, hostility, and resentment. Good relationships with adults can occur (although usually they lack a close, confiding quality) and, if present, do not rule out the diagnosis. Offending is characteristically (but not necessarily) solitary. Typical behaviours comprise: bullying, excessive fighting, and (in older children) extortion or violent assault; excessive levels of disobedience, rudeness, uncooperativeness, and resistance to authority; severe temper tantrums and uncontrolled rages; destructiveness to property, fire-setting, and cruelty to animals and other children. Some isolated children, however, become involved in group offending. The nature of the offence is therefore less important in making the diagnosis than the quality of personal relationships.

Point 3: Explanations for disruptive behaviours

Cognitive level of explanation. Irrational thought processes and poor information processing skills. For example, a student who takes a great deal of time to assimilate and accommodate information may give up or not be allowed enough time and therefore may become frustrated which can lead to anti-social behaviours. Another factor may the phenomenon of psychological reactance in which the individual responds to perceived threats to their autonomy by asserting their individuality through refusing to co-operate. Given that the years between 11-16 are about identity and role resolution (Erikson) it would be expected that some students may have difficulty dealing with perceived threats to their identity.

Social level of explanation. Sub-cultures of disruptive behaviours can develop in schools in which the values of the education system are replaced by others which will allow those who can not gain status through conventional means to do so.

Behavioural level of explanation. Learnt habits and conditioned responses for reinforcement can lead to disruptive behaviour. The classic example is that a boy who consistently disrupts their class is showing attention seeking behaviour, the attention acting as a positive reinforcer. (Skinner)

Social Learning level of explanation. Observed behaviours of significant role models whether in school or outside will be learnt from and demonstrated in class if deemed to be appropriate. If the role models are of a dubious nature then this could lead to difficulties for both the teacher and the student. (Bandura)

Environmental level of explanation. Excessive noise and heat have been correlated with frustration and aggressive behaviour. A school/classroom that has these features may elicit disruptive behaviours from students. Studies by Green and O'Neal (1969), Donnerstein and Wilson (1976) and Konecni (1975) suggest that under circumstances in which noise would be expected to increase arousal (like the use of whitenoise) or when there is a predisposition to aggress, aggression is increased. However when the noise does not appreciably increase arousal (as when the individual has control over it) or when the individual is not already predisposed to aggress, noise appears to have little, if any, effect on aggression. Thus we can conclude that noise strengthens or increases aggression but does not provoke it.

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