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My son is 7 years old. Just in the past year, he has started developing some behavioral problems. He is very easily frustrated and when he gets frustrated he is prone to angry outbursts, storming off and door slamming, tipping over chairs and occasionally he will damage things on purpose as a way of expressing his anger. He has also has had several incidents of stealing--mostly just things around the house, but once he stole a GameBoy from a friend. When he steals or misbehaves, he lies to cover it up, but otherwise isn't prone to lying. A couple of times he's gotten angry enough that he's threatened his siblings, once going so far as to say he was going to kill my two year old--whom he is otherwise very affectionate towards.

I realize how bad this all sounds, so I want to also add that this doesn't happen every day or even every other day. Most days he is fine. I don't think he's manipulative beyond just lying to stay out of trouble, and he doesn't avoid affection. In fact I would go so far as to say he's generally very affectionate ... he always wants a hug and kiss goodbye, to sit close to someone on the sofa and is so attached to his dad that if dad leaves early without a hug and kiss he will get very upset and cry inconsolably. I also don't think he lacks empathy--I have known him to get very upset watching movies where a baby or child is in some kind of peril. But he did recently tell me that he "doesn't ever feel sorry for other people when they are sad or hurt." But that could just be his desire to seem tough, more than the truth, because I've certainly seen him express empathy.

But I'm still worried that he's showing some signs of an antisocial personality disorder. Do you think I should have him evaluated by a child therapist or are these just normal issues for a kid his age? I should add that he hasn't had any behavioral issues at school that I am aware of.

Thanks in advance.

Answer
Hi, Becki,

This doesn't strike me as normal 7 year old kid behavior.  

Please have him carefully looked at by your pediatrician to make sure there are no medical issues, such as anemia, lead poisoning or thyroid concerns, all of which can cause behavioral issues.  Your pediatrician should get a good birth history, a good developmental history, and do a thorough exam.  A referral to a pediatric behavioral specialist may be then in order.  

Good luck, D.r Olson

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David Olson, MD

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I would be happy to attempt to answer any questions about general pediatric topics, either medical issues or behavioral issues. This would include all the various questions one receives in a busy pediatric practice. I`m a board certified pediatrician in northern Michigan and have been in practice for over 15 years. I enjoy the teaching role I have in our practice and would enjoy the opportunity to help others with their pediatric problems.

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