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Pediatricians see children and adolescents who have a variety of behavioral or mental health concerns, and one of the most challenging is aggression. Aggressive behavior may represent a normal developmental stage or indicate a serious, ongoing mental health disorder that poses a safety concern. In this article, we discuss the definitions, risk factors, related psychiatric disorders, assessment, intervention, and outcomes of aggressive behaviors in children and adolescents.

Classified as a disruptive behavior, aggressive behavior stands out in the eyes of the parent and clinician. Aggressive behavior can be either impulsive (reacting to a trigger) or proactive (premeditated). Temper tantrums, physical aggression such as hitting or biting other children, stealing other children's possessions, and defiance of authority are distressing to families and school personnel. Often, it is in the school or child care setting that the behaviors become troublesome; the behaviors may...

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