Warning Signs of Violence in Children

Maybe you're not sure if your child is violent. Here are signs that your preschool or school-aged child or teenager may be violent.

Warning Signs in the Toddler and Preschool Child:

  • Has many temper tantrums in a single day or several lasting more than 15 minutes, and often cannot be calmed by parents, family members, or other caregivers;
  • Has many aggressive outbursts, often for no reason;
  • Is extremely active, impulsive, and fearless;
  • Consistently refuses to follow directions and listen to adults;
  • Does not seem attached to parents; for example, does not touch, look for, or return to parents in strange places;
  • Frequently watches violence on television, engages in play that has violent themes, or is cruel toward other children.

Warning Signs in the School-Aged Child:

  • Has trouble paying attention and concentrating;
  • Often disrupts classroom activities;
  • Does poorly in school;
  • Frequently gets into fights with other children in school;
  • Reacts to disappointments, criticism, or teasing with extreme and intense anger, blame, or revenge;
  • Watches many violent television shows and movies or plays a lot of violent video games;
  • Has few friends, and is often rejected by other children because of his or her behavior;
  • Makes friends with other children known to be unruly or aggressive;
  • Consistently does not listen to adults;
  • Is not sensitive to the feelings of others;
  • Is cruel or violent toward pets or other animals;
  • Is easily frustrated.

Warning Signs in the Preteen or Teenage Adolescent:

  • Consistently does not listen to authority figures;
  • Pays no attention to the feelings or rights of others;
  • Mistreats people and seems to rely on physical violence or threats of violence to solve problems;
  • Often expresses the feeling that life has treated him or her unfairly;
  • Does poorly in school and often skips class;
  • Misses school frequently for no identifiable reason;
  • Gets suspended from or drops out of school;
  • Joins a gang, gets involved in fighting, stealing, or destroying property;
  • Drinks alcohol and/or uses inhalants or drugs.

This material was excerpted from is a brochure produced through a collaborative project of the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Full text copies of the brochure are available by contacting the American Academy, Division of Publications, 141 Northwest Point Blvd, PO Box 927, Elk Grove Village, IL. 60009-0927. Copyright © 1996 American Psychological Association. All Rights Reserved.

If you are seeking immediate guidance or help about your son or daughter, our Virtual Clinic provides email, chat room, and telephone therapy for assistance in your situation.

If you are a mental health professional, please refer to our Seminars to arrange a comprehensive training workshop on the impact of the media violence on families.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, January 2). Warning Signs of Violence in Children, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: October 6, 2015

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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