Maladaptive aggression is aggressive behavior that occurs outside an acceptable social context. Such aggression may be characterized by an intensity, frequency, duration and severity disproportionate to its causes. The behavior may occur in the absence of antecedent social cues and may not be terminated within the expected time frame, or in response to feedback. Because of the context in which the behavior occurs, aggressive behavior at church will almost always be viewed as maladaptive.
Research has suggested that kids at risk of behaving aggressively
- Have more school adjustment problems than anticipated
- Have higher rates of peer rejection and victimization
- Experience difficulty in ambiguous interpersonal situations, struggle in reading emotion in the facial expressions of others and are more likely to read neutral facial expressions negatively
- Often experience poor peer relationships and deficits in problem solving by the age of four
- 21% of children with impulsive aggression are reported to have been victims of physical abuse
Bipolar Disorder: The vast preponderance of kids with bipolar disorder will also have ADHD. During mood episodes, their experience of irritability and capacity for self-control may be markedly worse than their typical day to day functioning.
Autism Spectrum Disorders: Kids with spectrum disorders frequently exhibit difficulties similar to those seen in ADHD. They also frequently experience cognitive rigidity, inflexibility and perseveration that can lead to internal distress and aggressive behavior, especially during times of transition.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Kids who have been victims of aggressive behavior are more likely to demonstrate aggression toward others.
Anxiety Disorders: Kids with anxiety may behave aggressively as a result of their predisposition to misinterpret the level of threat or danger in their immediate environment.
Iatrogenic Causes: Not infrequently, the medication used to treat one condition may exacerbate a child’s propensity for aggressive behavior. We occasionally see this in kids with anxiety or autism spectrum disorders being treated with stimulants. Certain anxiety medications can result in disinhibited behavior.
Aggression often co-occurs with specific disorders, but may not be ameliorated by medications used to treat those disorders.
Our job as church isn’t to diagnose, but it’s important to note that many different conditions may predispose kids to aggressive behavior. If church staff/volunteers are aware of a diagnosis (assuming the diagnosis is accurate) or observe patterns of behavior consistent with a diagnosis, one might begin to anticipate situations when the risk of aggressive behavior may be heightened and strategize ways of pre-empting the behavior. More on that later.
The most important take home point is that there’s a pretty good chance kids who struggle with aggressive behavior at church have some condition that predisposes them to act that way or have been victims of such behavior themselves.
They sound like kids who could certainly benefit from the opportunity to experience the love of Christ through a local church, don’t they?
Interested in joining a bunch of folks who are passionate about families of kids with special needs coming to know and love Jesus Christ? An event in which any church leader, volunteer or parent anywhere in the world who shares the same passion and has access to the Internet through a computer, tablet or smart phone can join in? That’s Inclusion Fusion, Key Ministry’s First Annual Special Needs Ministry Web Summit, featuring this year’s Keynote Speaker, Chuck Swindoll. And it’s all available to you for free! Register here for the Special Needs Ministry Web Summit, coming this November 3rd-5th.