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Bad Behavior and Depression in Children

by Rebecca Mayglothling, studioD

Bad behavior and depression are often a pair in children. According to the University of Oregon, depressed children demonstrate bad behavior because they do not understand how to express what they feel. Depression brings about feelings of sadness and feeling down over a period of time. Children do not understand how to express what they feel, so they often break the rules to grab attention. Often, the actions are a cry for help.

Why Depression Happens

Depression happens in kids for two main reasons. Either the neurotransmitters in the brain are not operating correctly or an external factor, such as moves or deaths, cause the depression. The reasons for the depression vary from person to person, and the depth of the depression will produce different levels of misbehavior. Since depression tends to happen over time, a child's bad behavior is an effective indicator of their internal moods and feelings.

Major Depression

Major depression is marked by feelings of worthlessness or guilt, according to child development experts at the Kids Health website. Kids suffering from this type of depression will exhibit behavior associated with a bad mood or long, persisting irritability. Bad behavior associated with this type of depression includes minor rule breaking, disrespect for others and "lashing out" at others. The child might not recognize the sad feelings within himself and therefore might not know the reason behind the bad behavior.


This type of depression is not a severe sadness, but it is a sadness that lasts for a year or more. These kids often feel "down in the dumps." Low self-esteem, hopelessness and issues with sleeping or eating are marked in these children. The bad behavior associated with this type of depression includes refusal to go to bed or to stay in bed, an inability to finish a meal or a defiance against spending time with family. Often, this depression leads to major depression.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is marked by episodes of lows -- sadness and hopelessness -- and highs -- irritability and temper tantrums. This type of depression is the most rare in children, but it does have a 1 percent occurrence, according to the Kids Health site. While more studies need to be conducted, experts believe that kids can experience other issues associated with this disease, such as attention deficit disorder or oppositional behavior disorders. Bad behavior is associated with this disease through the explosive tempers and the high level of irritability. Children can't understand the extreme range of emotions associated with this disease, so they break rules and behave in negative ways simply because they don't know what else to do.

About the Author

Rebecca Mayglothling has worked directly with toddlers and preschoolers for more than three years. She has published numerous lesson plans online as well as parenting and teaching advice. She continues to keep ahead of parenting methods and is eager to share them through her professional writing.

Photo Credits

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