Psychology and Cognitive Sciences

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Explain violent behavior in children using a modern perspective of psychology.

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Violence among children and adolescents is often analyzed under the two main currents of psychology: Cognitive and behavioral. The cognitive branch of psychology studies the biological and psychological processes of the child and focuses on the internal processes that produce behavior.  On the other hand, the behavioral school of psychology bases its analysis on the environmental factors that may affect the behavior of children. The environmental factors that play a role in the behavior of children include the parents, relatives, friends, the home atmosphere, support services in school, and anything to which the child becomes socially exposed.   

In a case when a child beats others, is aggressive, and does not seem to control himself, the psychologist needs to look from the cognitive and the behavioral perspectives to determine whether the behavior is caused by illness or just by a reaction to the environment.  Once the causative factor of the behavior is determined the child would undergo behavioral therapy as well as psychological counseling.  In the case of bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder (ADD/HD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or other health impaired (OHI) the child will receive medication.  If the behavior is caused by socially-learned habits (defiant behavior, bullying, disrespecting others), then a good behavioral program that involves reinforcement for making good choices would be the most appropriate intervention.

Therefore, a modern perspective of psychology would include both cognitive and behavioral parameters in order to analyze the behavior of a child. Even today we still see the argument of nature versus nurture in every aspect of the study of human behavior:  Can good parenting deter inherited tendencies of violence in a child? Can a condition such as ODD be curbed with behavioral therapy and without medication? Those questions are part of the premise of modern psychology: That both nature and nurture are influential in the behavior of a human being.  

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