types of emotional and behavioural problems children

Causative factors of emotional problems in children

Freud, a psycho- analyst, believed that children experience certain needs at different life stages and that these stages need to be completed. If these emotional needs have not been attended to, it could cause emotional problems.  The behaviourist position differed from him, by implying that emotional and behaviour problems are something that is learned through conditioning. This implies that certain negative behaviour patterns are strengthened and therefore a child will repeat the negative behaviour.

The following situations may be reasons for children experiencing emotional problems



Routine activities Sublimation Aspects that the child and parent don’t have control over
Death Performance pressure Disappointment Illnesses
Fear of loss Constant marital problems Low self esteem Brain damage
Rejection Family conflict Suppression of feelings of anger Disabilities
Separation Competition amongst siblings Fear of failure Chemical imbalance in the brain
Divorce Poor relationships within the family unit Stress Drug addiction
Illness Change of the child’s routine Feelings of guilt Abuse
Disappointment Stress Over dependence/comparing of self to others.


Types of emotional- and behavioural problems

According to Rutter (1990:28-34) children with psychological problems can be divided into eight groups.

He refers to emotional problems, behavioural problems, hyperkinetic syndrome, infantile autism, schizophrenia, developmental problems and problems like enuresis, encopresis, mannerisms, anorexia and bulimia. Emotional problems usually manifest itself in behavioural deficiencies.

Emotional problems usually suggest that the ‘main problem’ is around abnormal emotions with a child, for instance anxiety, fear, depression, obsession etc. Behavioural problems however are problems where abnormal behaviour gives rise to social unacceptability.


The following emotional and behavioural problems are important.

  1. Aggression
  2. Anxiety
  3. Lies
  4. Self-stimulation (Child that reciprocates or makes repetitive movements with his hands)
  5. Depression
  6. Psychosomatic problems

(Enuresis, encopresis – soiling or bedwetting that is not age appropriate and is not due to physical reason- usually trauma induced)

  1. Excessive obedience
  2. Eating problems (Bulimia and Anorexia)
  4. Separation anxiety
  5. Schizoid disorder

(Children, who cannot interact with peer group, usually withdraw from social interaction, although they usually do have the ability to have a good relationship with a parent. These children usually struggle to cope within a social environment and does not show any or limited interest in the activities around him. This problem can start from the age of five years old.

  1. Selective mutism
  2. Mannerisms
  3. Infantile autism

(These children show a lack to a response or interest in people and struggle to make normal contact- eye or face contact, except when forced to make this contact. These children usually are not capable of building normal relationships.

  1. Fear (unfounded)
  2. Obsessive reassurance seeking.

Please see website for more in depth information on some of these emotional problems.