A new study in the August issue of The Journal of Pediatrics says that children who demonstrate violent behavior at schools may have underlying learning disorders and psychiatric illnesses. Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a child psychiatrist at Cambridge Health Alliance, and colleagues from Harvard University conducted a study on 33 students in order to probe the subject more deeply.
The authors identified substance abuse in 11 students and at least one medical problem in 13 students. 28 of the 33 students (85%) evaluated had experienced a significant family crisis (such as sickness or death of a parent). 23 had participated in brief or intermittent psychosocial interventions, 5 of which included hospitalizations. 6 of the 18 students (33%) with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder had never received any kind of treatment for it.
These findings reflect the need for health care professionals, caregivers, and teachers to be able to identify potentially dangerous behavior patterns in aggressive students so that proper evaluations and diagnoses can be provided and subsequent treatments be made accessible.
'Often educators look at Columbine as the 'twin towers' experience where schools are understandably more vigilant about aggressive students and their potential for violence,' says Dr. Rappaport. 'The challenge to create and maintain safe schools is to mobilize proactive strategies and create a balanced and informed approach.'