Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Addressing Antisocial Behavior in the Schools: A Call for Action

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Addressing Antisocial Behavior in the Schools: A Call for Action

Article excerpt


Due to the co-occurrence of externalizing behaviors and academic deficits, children with or at-risk for antisocial behavior are among the most difficult children to teach. Therefore, it is important for general and special educators alike to become more familiar with strategies for identifying and intervening with these children. The intent of this article is to (a) describe the behavioral and academic characteristics of children with antisocial behavior, (b) discuss the challenges of educating these children, and (c) provide suggests for identifying and serving children with or at-risk for antisocial behavior.


The rate of violent, antisocial acts committed by children is alarming. Approximately 2.6 million juvenile arrests were made in 1998 (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1999) with 17% of all violent crimes being perpetrated by juveniles. Although boys tend to exhibit more behavior problems relative to girls, antisocial behavior demonstrated by females is increasing and the behaviors are becoming more violent in nature (OJJDP, 1999). Thus, the number of children demonstrating antisocial behavior patterns is staggering, and the problem is not specific to males. However, these circumstances are not surprising given that youngsters who demonstrate behaviors predictive of antisocial behavior are currently ignored until their behavior becomes explosive.

Antisocial behavior refers to persistent violations of socially acceptable behavior patterns (Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). Children with antisocial behavior exhibit a range of aggressive and coercive behaviors some of which include: physical aggression, caustic verbalizations, noncompliance, and criminality. Children with antisocial behavior also demonstrate impulsivity, poor interpersonal skills, ineffective cognitive-problem solving skills, and academic deficiencies that negatively impact teacher-and peer-related adjustment. In fact, antisocial behavior is the number one reason cited for referring a youngster to mental health services. The prevalence of conduct disorder, which stems from antisocial behavior, amongst children ranges from 2-6% of the general population--1.3 to 3.8 million cases--with dramatic increases in adolescence (Frick, 1998).

Although it is possible that children with antisocial behavior may, at some point, qualify for special education, it is important to note that the label of antisocial behavior does not qualify children for special education services. Many of these children begin their educational careers in the general education setting. Consequently, they are educated by general educators who report feeling ill equipped to manage the challenging behaviors exhibited by some of their students (Schumm & Vaughn, 1995). Thus, it is critical that general educators and administrators become familiarized with the characteristics of this population and strategies for better serving them in general education classrooms. Accordingly, the intent of this article is three fold. First, the behavioral and academic characteristics of children with antisocial behavior will be discussed. Second, the challenges of educating these children will be addressed. Third, suggestions for better serving this population will be provided.

Behavioral and Academic Concerns

Antisocial behavior includes both externalizing (e.g., aggression, delinquency) and internalizing (anxiety, depression, withdrawal) behaviors (Achenbach, 1991). Externalizing behavior, which is typical of the majority of students with antisocial behaviors, tends to be more stable over time, more resistant to intervention, and, consequently, is challenged by a worse prognosis for remediation relative to internalizing behavior (Hinshaw, 1992). Children with externalizing behavior patterns also tend to function at a lower level in cognitive, social, and academic areas--especially in reading skills, and are more likely to attract teacher attention than children with internalizing behaviors. …

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