Socialization is an integral part of the human experience. Social contexts influence personal development as children try to make sense of the world around them and recognize patterns in socialization. Children learn about social norms from their families and others in their social surroundings, such as school or places of worship. Occasionally children who develop social skills more slowly or struggle with socialization altogether, wind up exhibiting more negative and even disconcerting behaviors. However, socialization and behavioral problems are rarely as straightforward as a cause and effect equation.
"Parent & Child" magazine notes that children who do not socialize experience major problems in adulthood. Children who are slow to develop social skills or do not socialize, in fact, exhibit issues much earlier than adulthood. For one, an inability to socialize well with others perpetuates a cycle of low self-esteem, particularly when a child who does not socialize well is bullied by others. Frequently these children's behaviors are simply misunderstood as a result of an inability to acquire social skills through experience, but they may act out inappropriately or, alternatively become depressed and withdrawn.
If a child is not socializing, consider what causes are at play, regardless of whether he exhibits negative behavior. It's possible your child is simply shy or otherwise slow to develop the same social-emotional intelligence as other kids. A lack of socialization coupled with what is perceived as bad behavior, or simply a lack of socialization alone, can be a sign of something more serious. An inability to socialize could be indicative of an underlying emotional, psychiatric or medical condition. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, slow or lacking social-emotional development often goes hand-in-hand with learning disabilities, which perpetuates frustration and often causes a child to act out. Other times, impulsive behaviors, such as speaking out of turn in class, can be misinterpreted as negative, when in truth the child merely needs additional time to register what others already understand.
More Serious Causes
Autism spectrum disorders frequently manifest as asocial or what is deemed "loner" behavior. If you suspect your child has autism, it's important to intervene early and get him the help he needs to learn to socialize in a way that meets his particular needs. Mistreatment, including abuse, in childhood can also lead to antisocial behavior. Maternal depression might play a role in a child's antisocial personality, according to the "Archives of General Psychiatry." When negative behavior is out of control and the root cause is difficult to determine, it's time to seek professional help for your child. If your child's behavior is violent or otherwise concerning to your family, teachers, group leaders or other parents, the problems might be beyond the scope of your control as a parent, and an expert's perspective is needed.
How to Help
The impulse to help your child learn to socialize might be overwhelming, but you should avoid pushing him too hard as this could cause him to become further closed off. Structured play is a good place to start in helping a young child learn to develop social skills, according to the Child Development Institute. The parent can take an active role in structuring short sessions until the child understands how to behave properly around his peers. The Institute also notes it's most productive to treat your child with warmth and optimism. Harsh punishments only serve to increase a child's aggressive drive. Regardless of setbacks on the road to better socialization, treat him as the worthwhile human being he is.
- ASAnet.org: An Introduction to Sociology
- National Center for Learning Disabilities: Behavior Problems and Learning Disabilities
- Parent & Child Magazine: A Look at Asperger's Syndrome
- Child Development Institute: Helping Your Child with Socialization
- American Journal of Orthopsychiatry: Childhood Maltreatment and Antisocial Behavior: Comparison of Self-Reported and Substantiated Maltreatment
- Archives of General Psychiatry: Maternal Depression and Children's Antisocial Behavior: Nature and Nurture Effects
- Psi Chi The International Honor Society in Psychology: Treatment of Antisocial Behavior in Children and Adolescents
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