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Treating Children

Image Source: fdevillamil / flickr.com

The treatment of children is a delicate issue in the field of psychology as much as in any other. It is of the utmost importance that individuals are not allowed to be maltreated, intentionally or not, because of their age but it would be equally wrong to ignore psychological conditions in youth and children out of fear of further damage. Clearly, this is a topic to be handled with care, but also one that cannot be ignored - an estimated 20% of children in America alone suffer from a mental condition[1].

Of course, there are fringe cases of extreme psychological abnormality in infants such as feral children[2] or shockingly violent desires resulting from abuse[3], but the more widespread issues tend to be less disruptive, though far from fun for the child to experience. These issues often fall under the catch-all term of 'developmental disorders' and may include anxiety, significant disruptive behavioreating disorders, elimination (body waste) disorders, hyperactivity, mood disorders, tics and in some cases even schizophrenia[1]. Some of these issues may resolve themselves over the course of a child's growth or be treated easily enough by school counselors or simply a change in diet and exercise. However, others, if left untreated, will follow the infant through adolescence, even into adulthood, and become compounded so one must be cautious in dismissing these issues.

Oval head and shoulders side portrait of a boy without clothes. He has a medium length hair cut long at the neck, a receding chin, and gazes calmly ahead.

Victor of Aveyron, a famous feral child found and studied in the 1800s in France.

On the other hand, there has been much media attention of late into the concern that psychiatrists and psychologists alike are diagnosing children with disorders too quickly, perhaps causing over-medication. This is especially a concern in the diagnosis and subsequent treatment of ADHD in youth, causing even the New York Times to publish an article on the rise, quoting a 41% rise in the last decade resulting in "one in five high school age boys in the United States" diagnosed and end up relying on the prescribed drugs as "mental steroids"[4]. It is a fine line for a parent to walk between recognizing valid symptoms of a burgeoning problem to save their child years of psychological stress, and indulging in over-anxious helicopter parenting.

 

References:

[1] WebMD (2005). Mental Illness in Children. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/mental-health-illness-in-children. [Last Accessed 4.12.2013].

[2] Fritha Keith (2008). 10 Modern Cases of Feral Children. [ONLINE] Available at: http://listverse.com/2008/03/07/10-modern-cases-of-feral-children/. [Last Accessed 4.12.2013].

[3] G.R. (2010). Children of Rage - Beth Thomas and Mary Flora Bell. [ONLINE] Available at: http://jl10ll.wordpress.com/2010/10/30/children-of-rage/. [Last Accessed 4.12.2013].

[4] Alan Schwarz and Sarah Cohen (2013). A.D.H.D. Seen in 11% of U.S. Children as Diagnoses Rise. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/01/health/more-diagnoses-of-hyperactivity-causing-concern.html?pagewanted=2&hp&pagewanted=all&_r=4&. [Last Accessed 4.12.2013].

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