The way in which we treat our children, right from the very earliest age can have a huge impact on their future lives. Research by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, has identified several risk factors linked to family life, which can contribute to youth violence. These include an authoritarian approach to behavior training, overly harsh or insufficient discipline, lack of involvement of parents, and lack of emotional relationship between child and parent.
Adequate behavior training, right from the start of a child’s life, can greatly reduce these risk factors. The majority of a child’s personality traits develop in the first two to three years, shaped by their parents or primary carers. Within the first two years a child learns basic trust, according to the eight stages of human development compiled by Erikson. If loved and cared for, with their physical and emotional needs met, a child develops trust and security. A badly treated or neglected child will develop mistrust, insecurity and the inability to form relationships which will affect their behavior in adolescence.
There are often conflicting views regarding this phase of behavior training, with parents believing that if a baby is picked up whenever they cry they will become overly dependent. However, studies have shown that these children are actually likely to grow up more secure, independent and able to deal with difficulties that arise as they progress towards adolescence, than children that were left to cry as babies.
Another area of early behavior development that can have repercussions for teenagers is discipline. Too often mistaken for punishment, discipline needs to be delicately balanced to teach a child how to behave acceptably and why, without destroying their self-worth and sense of optimism. Harsh discipline in early behavior training can lead to violence and aggression in adolescence. Studies have shown that more teenage problems are caused by a lack of affection than by a lack of punishment, so parents should strive to explain to their children from an early stage how to do something right, rather than lashing out when they do something wrong.
We should not underestimate the effect of behavior training on even the youngest children. By the age of ten months a child can experience anger, aggression and a fear of strangers. By providing a loving, supportive and moderate environment for our young children we can greatly reduce the risk factors that contribute towards violence and aggression in our teenagers.