Maladaptive behavior is commonly observed in children who have troubled family lives or low self esteem (Maladaptive Behavior, 2003). In this case, there could be several reasons that the child is exhibiting and engaging in maladaptive behavior related to his environment at home. Using a variety of theories of moral development as well as a question-answer evaluation of the parenting styles of the child’s parents, the maladaptive behavior seen in the child as well as a solution will try to be understood.
Different types of maladaptive behavior are attributed to different problems. While most parents simply believe that their child is misbehaving, maladaptive behavior is usually classified in groupings such as attention-seeking or revengeful, behavior inappropriateness (Maladaptive Behavior, 2003). The child being observed exhibits both types of maladaptive behavior, which can most likely be explained by moral development theories and poor parenting.
For the behaviors such as repeating swear words, throwing food on the floor, drawing on the walls, and screaming in public, it is most likely a result of a self esteem or attention-seeking issue. The child is trying to get in trouble to get attention from the parents (Maladaptive Behavior, 2003). The child knows these behaviors are bad as Kohlberg states, “younger school-aged children tend to think either in terms of concrete, unvarying rules…or in terms of the rules of society”(Feldman, 2011; p. 311). However, the child also knows that participating in these behaviors will result in attention from the parents.
The child is obviously aware that these actions are not societally accepted because it is likely that they have not observed them in their teachers, parents or other powerful authority figures (Feldman, 2011). In this area of maladaptive behavior, it would seem that the parents might have an uninvolved parenting style. To determine if this is true, the parents should be asked questions about their involvement with the child and how concerned they are with aspects of his development other than their role as a provider.
The following questions would suffice: Do you believe that your only job is to feed, clothe, and shelter your child? (Feldman, 2011) Is there any child abuse or neglect in the family? (Feldman, 2011) How involved with your child would you say you are on a day-to-day basic, specifically related to disciplining their behavior? (Feldman, 2011) These would all be important to ask because if their answers indicate that they are neglectful, uninvolved in disciplinary as well as other areas of development, or confused on their role as a parent, they may be uninvolved parents.
According to the textbook, “Children whose parents show uninvolved parenting styles are the worst off…their parents’ lack of involvement disrupts their emotional development, leading them to feel unloved”(Feldman, 2011; p. 317). This could make them act out in an attempt to get the attention of their indifferent or detached parents.
The reasons behind the child’s behavior of hitting other children in daycare and ignoring direct commands from parents may be more along the lines of revengeful maladaptive behavior as it is intentional causation of harm to another student or person (Maladaptive Behavior, 2003). According to Piaget, children in the heteronomous stage, which happens in the early years of childhood, believe in immanent justice, “the notion that rules that are broken earn immediate punishment”(Feldman, 2011; p. 309). For this child, it is possible that he does not understand that his behavior is unacceptable even if he is mad at another student.
This is probably the result of permissive parenting by the parents. The student most likely has never known that his behavior is bad because permissive parents such as his “provide lax and inconsistent feedback…and place little or no limits or control on their childrens behavior” (Feldman, 2011; p.316). To determine if this is true of the parents’ style of discipline the following questions could be asked: Do you expect a lot from your child in the areas of behavior? Would you ever be punitive or clear and consistent in your limits with your child? It they answer that they have few expectations, would rarely limit their children, or are inconsistent with their discipline it is possible that their permissiveness is causing the child to act badly in school and disregard their correction when it is given.
Based on the observation of the parenting styles the child sees at home as well as the information from the moral development theories, it is clear that the parents are most likely at fault for their child’s maladaptive behavior. If they want their child to correct his behavior, they should engage in more authoritative parenting as children raised in this parenting style “fare best…are independent, friendly with peers, and cooperative” (Feldman, 2011; p.317). The parent should, as a part of this parenting style, be firm and set clear and consistent limits on their children. Additionally, induction, or discipline paired with explanation, can also be used so the child knows what they did and why it was wrong and can correct it in the future (Lee, 2013).
Feldman, R.S. (2011). Life span development: A topical approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Lee, M. (2013, April 1). Class #28: Prosocial Behavior, Values, and Spirituality. GPSYCH 160: Life Span Human Development – Section 8. Lecture conducted from James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA. Maladaptive Behavior. (2003). Retrieved April 8, 2013, from http://disease.disease.com/Therapy/Behavior/maladaptive-behavior.html