Antisocial and Withdrawn Behaviour

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Antisocial and withdrawn behaviour are common mental and behavioural problems in children and young people.

Antisocial or withdrawn behaviour is the lack of compliance with the social standards and fear of, or withdrawal from, people or social situations. The behaviourtypically begins during childhood or early adolescence and can continue into adulthood. People of any age can display antisocial behaviour. When children exhibit this behaviour, it is generally referred to as “conduct disorder”.

Children with emotional or behavioural disorders are characterized by behaviour that falls significantly beyond the norms of their cultural and age group. This behaviour has adverse effects on the child’s school achievement and social relationships. Antisocial children tend to choose similar children as playmates.

Causes of Antisocial Behaviour

The exact cause of antisocial personality disorder is unknown. However, genetic and environmental factors may play a role.

Various factors contribute to child’s antisocial behaviour, but can include some form of family problem, as the child who grows up ina disturbed home may enter the adult world emotionally injured. A lack of consistent discipline results in little regard for rules. 

Other causes for antisocial behaviour may include for example; learning or cognitive disabilities, health problems, parental marital discord, or actual child abuse, frequent changes in housing or other destabilizing factors.

A child may also show antisocial behaviour for a limited period of time in response to a specific incident such as the death of a parent or a divorce, but this is not considered a psychiatric condition. 

The following are some possible environmental factors for antisocial child:

  • A “harsh” parenting style
  • Parental mental health problems such as depression and drug abuse
  • Breakup of parental marriage
  • Extreme poverty
  • Low achievement
  • The presence of other mental health problems

Recognizing Signs of Antisocial Behaviour 

A highly significant characteristic of antisocial behaviour is the inability to learn from the social and cultural environment and the academic situation as well. It is strongly associated with poor educational performance and social isolation. Since antisocial children are unable to learn appropriate behaviour, they tend to show inappropriate behaviour and, typically show three or more of the following signs:

  • Acting aggressively jeopardizing the safety of himself and/or others.
  • Does not comply with directions and enjoys breaking the law
  • Is manipulative, and lies his/her way through situations.
  • Borrows money with no intention of repaying it.
  • Steals.
  • Is willing to hurt others emotionally or physically without feeling any regret.
  • Is arrogant and overly confident.
  • Likes to set fires.
  • Is cruel to animals.
  • Do not respond to teacher corrections
  • Do not complete assignments
  • Violating the rights of others
  • Manipulating and exploiting others
  • Verbal abuse

Moreover, Children who are highly sensitive and withdrawn often have difficulties establishing peer relationships and are often perceived as unfriendly and socially awkward. 


The most important treatment for antisocial behaviour is to assess and diagnose the actual problem of the child and effectively teach him/her the positive behaviours that should be adopted instead. Medication may be prescribed in severe cases to control behaviour, but it should not be used as substitute for therapy. There are also varieties of treatment methods may be used to deliver social skills training, but the most effective methods with diagnosed antisocial disorders are systemic therapies that address communication skills among the whole family or within a group of other antisocial children. 

If your child is displaying any antisocial or withdrawn behaviour which is of concern to you seek help from you doctor as soon as you can.  There are many reasons which may cause this behaviour and will not necessarily be a reflection on you as a parent or on the family.  The sooner help is sought for the child the better the prognosis.

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