Emotional & Behavioral Problems of Young Children

by Amy Morin
Fun events, like trick-or-treating, can be stressful for kids with emotional problems.

Fun events, like trick-or-treating, can be stressful for kids with emotional problems.

Determining whether a young child has an emotional or behavioral problem can seem like a ridiculous task. After all, preschoolers are some of the only people in the world who can throw themselves to the floor kicking and screaming without anyone really raising an eyebrow. Some young kids do, however, experience serious emotional and behavioral issues that interfere with their daily life. There are several emotional and behavioral problems that interfere with a child's ability to establish friendships, get along with family and learn new skills.


Symptoms of autism usually appear before age 3. Autism spectrum disorders range from mild to severe, but all forms of autism interfere with a child's ability to communicate and interact socially. Early intervention is extremely important when treating autism. Treatment does not cure autism, but services such as speech therapy or occupational therapy treat many of the symptoms. Parents can benefit by learning parenting techniques that manage emotional and behavioral issues effectively.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

By nature, young kids are energetic and have short attention spans. However, kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder struggle to complete simple tasks. A child with ADHD may not ever get his toys picked up because he's distracted by a noise in another room or because he's literally climbing the walls. The American Psychological Association says ADHD can be diagnosed in children as young as 3 and can be treated with medication or parent training in behavioral interventions.

Anxiety Disorders

Although it's normal for young children to be afraid of the dark or monsters hiding under the bed, some kids develop full-blown anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder or specific phobias. Where normal anxiety may be slightly problematic, an anxiety disorder will interfere with a child's daily life. A child who checks under his bed for monsters before going to sleep may have normal amounts of anxiety, while a child whose fear of insects prevents him from playing outside may have an anxiety disorder.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Before you decide your child's refusal to pick up his toys must mean he has oppositional defiant disorder, keep in mind that young children are supposed to test limits. However, kids with ODD are much more uncooperative than the average little one. ODD can lead to aggression, frequent tantrums, deliberate attempts to annoy others, vengeful behaviors and excessive arguing. ODD can be treated with parent training to help parents learn skills to help their child as well as social skills training for children.

About the Author

Amy Morin has been writing about parenting, relationships, health and lifestyle issues since 2009. Her work appears in many print and online publications, including Mom.me and Global Post. Morin works as a clinical therapist and a college psychology instructor. Morin received her Master of Social Work from the University of New England.

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