Why Are Kids So Angry?

Kids are kids, which means that when they get mad, they're not especially diplomatic about it. What's disturbing, though, is that more and more kids seem unable to stop at ordinary expressions of childish ire. "I see hundreds of kids each year, and I'm shocked by the level of aggressiveness I'm observing," says Edward Christophersen, Ph.D., a psychologist at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO.

Are Kids Today Angrier?

arms crossed

Greg Scheidemann

We've seen the worst of this rage in news headlines, from school shootings in Littleton, CO, and Red Lake, MN, to more recent examples: a 7-year-old boy in Tampa, FL, who allegedly beat his 7-month-old half sister to death, and a 9-year-old Brooklyn, NY, girl, who allegedly stabbed and killed an 11-year-old friend over a ball. But for every sensational story of youthful rage gone amok, there are thousands of quieter tales of parental helplessness in the face of kids who fly off the handle.

Clearly, acts of aggression are no longer confined to the privacy of people's homes. They're being played out in public places -- at increasingly young ages. A recent study by the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, CT, found that preschoolers are being expelled at more than three times the rate of K-12 students. Another recent survey of childcare providers, elementary school counselors, and pediatricians in Tarrant County, TX, found that more than 85% of the counselors who responded said kindergartners today have more emotional and/or behavioral problems than five years ago; 67% of childcare providers reported a similar trend with the young children in their care. "This is happening in schools all across the country," says Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center in Westlake Village, CA. "We're hearing about first-graders and kindergartners who are cursing and punching teachers and hitting classmates."

Studies indicate that it's critical to intervene early -- before lifelong patterns of extreme, explosive behavior take root. "If a child is still very aggressive by age 8, he is at risk for being violent in adolescence and adulthood," says James Garbarino, Ph.D., professor of human development at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and author of Parents Under Siege.

Parents Are Talking

Add a Comment