Causes of Impulsiveness in Children

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Tess Thompson

Before discussing impulsiveness or impulsive behavior, it is important to first understand the subject in its entirety. Impulsiveness is a term used to describe a type of human behavior marked by a strong tendency to act on impulse rather than thought. Impulse control disorder, on the other hand, is a set of psychological disorders that include the following:

  • Intermittent explosive disorder, characterized by expression of uncontrollable rage.
  • Kleptomania, inability to resist impulsive stealing, mostly of things of no value.
  • Pyromania, intense obsession with fire and fire starting.
  • Pathological gambling, urge to gamble despite negative consequences.
  • Trichotillomania, an irresistible urge to pull out one's own hair.

The popular medical diagnosis of ADD or ADHD is also characterized by impulsive behaviors , hyperactivity, inability to focus and short attention span .

Aggression and violence are a direct result of impulsive demeanors but people normally do not act on such impulses unless they loose control. Whether it is a child or a teenager or an adult who has behavioral problems, the condition needs to be understood in the background of childhood history and the detrimental affects of the fast paced culture, unstable family environments and media influences. There is a dire need of considering the affect of the current cultural environment on development of a child's brain and its carry over impact during teenage years and adulthood.

The present day culture of instant gratification, short and concise news stories, fast food, loud music and instant accessibility has affected the modern generation in an entirely unexpected manner. The 'instant culture' has led to an addiction of a different nature. Children find themselves in position where they are unable to resist the temptation of sensation seeking behaviors simply because they are bored. It is one of the major causes behind impulsive behavior, lack of attention span, and hyperactivity.

As children become more accustomed to living a fast life, they find it difficult to tolerate quiet environments like a classroom where they are supposed to sit quietly and listen. The problem is aggravated when the school system is unable to meet the challenge head on and take corrective measures in refurbishing age old curricula and out-dated teaching methods.

There is no denying the fact that some children and adults do suffer from genuine neurological problems that cause one or more psychiatric disorders, but at the same time there is an ongoing controversy regarding the scientific proof of many psychological disorders and the efficacy of psychotropic medication in treating them.

There are millions of children being administered psychotropic medication and provided classroom adjustments to help correct impulsive conduct and enable them to focus on lessons but it is unfair to quickly label children with psychological disorders. The human body is much more that an assembly of neural activity. Impulsiveness can also be due to the way children grow up, which depends upon the negative stimulation that they receive during early age.


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