Anti-social behaviours are actions that harm or lack consideration for the well-being of others. Many people also label behaviour which is deemed contrary to prevailing norms for social conduct as anti-social behaviour. The term is especially used in British English.
Anti-social is frequently used, incorrectly, to mean either "nonsocial" or "unsociable". The words are not synonyms.
The American Psychiatric Association, in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, diagnoses persistent anti-social behaviour as antisocial personality disorder. The World Health Organization includes it in the International Classification of Diseases as "dissocial personality disorder". A pattern of persistent anti-social behaviours can also be present in children and adolescents diagnosed with conduct problems, including conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder under the DSM-5.
Intent and discrimination may determine both pro- and anti-social behavior. Infants may act in seemingly anti-social ways and yet be generally accepted as too young to know the difference before the age of 4 or 5. Berger states that parents should teach their children that "emotions need to be regulated, not depressed". Studies have shown that in children between ages 13–14 who bully or show aggressive behavior towards others exhibits anti-social behaviors in their early adulthood. There are strong statistical relationships that shows this significant association between childhood aggressiveness and anti-social behaviors. Analyses saw that 20% of these children who exhibit anti-social behaviors at later ages had court appearances and police contact as a result of their behavior.
Many of the studies regarding the media's influence on anti-social behaviour have been deemed inconclusive. There has been a correlation found between the number of TV hours watched and amounts of aggressive behaviour. A study was conducted that observed the effects of violent and non-violent films on Belgian and American male juvenile delinquents. The results stated that aggression increased in some measures due to the violent films, although only in those who were naturally high in aggression. Violence, racism, sexism, and other anti-social acts are attributed to things such as genetic predisposition and violence in the home. Some reviews have found strong correlations between aggression and the viewing of violent media, while others find little evidence to support their case. The only unanimously accepted truth regarding anti-social behaviour is that parental guidance carries an undoubtedly strong influence; providing children with brief negative evaluations of violent characters helps to reduce violent effects in the individual.
A recent genome-wide analysis of antisocial behavior in a large combined sample has shown that a large number of genetic variants of low individual effect play a role in antisocial behavior. Moreover, this study showed that several variants show gender-specific effects on antisocial behavior in males and females.
Intervention and treatment
An individual's age at intervention is a strong predictor of the effectiveness of a given treatment. The specific kinds of anti-social behaviours exhibited, as well as the magnitude of those behaviours also impact how effective a treatment is for an individual.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), is a highly effective, evidence-based therapy, in relation to anti-social behaviour. This type of treatment focuses on changing how individuals think and act in social situations. Individuals with particularly aggressive anti-social behaviours tend to have maladaptive social cognitions, including hostile attribution bias, which lead to negative behavioural outcomes. CBT has been found to be more effective for older children and less effective for younger children.Problem-solving skills training (PSST) is a type of CBT that aims to recognize and correct how an individual thinks and consequently behaves in social environments. This training provides steps to assist people in obtaining the skill to be able to evaluate potential solutions to problems occurring outside of therapy and learn how to create positive solutions to avoid physical aggression and resolve conflict.
Behavioural parent training
Behavioural parent training (BPT) or parent management training (PMT), focuses on changing how parents interact with their children and equips them with ways to recognize and change their child's maladaptive behaviour in a variety of situations. BPT assumes that certain types of interactions between parents and children may reinforce a child's antisocial behaviours, therefore the aim of BPT is to teach the parent effective skills to better manage and communicate with their child. BPT has been found to be most effective for younger children under the age of 12. Researchers credit the effectiveness of this treatment at younger ages due to the fact that younger children are more reliant on their parents. BPT is used to treat children with conduct problems, but also for children with ADHD.
In severe cases, medication will be administered to control behaviour, however it is not a suitable substitute for therapy.Lithium carbonate has been proven to be effective medication for people with anti-social behaviour, reducing aggression, threatening behaviour, bullying, fighting and temper outbursts.
In the UK
Main article: Anti-social behaviour order
An anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) is a civil order made against a person who has been shown, on the balance of evidence, to have engaged in anti-social behaviour. The orders, introduced in the United Kingdom by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1998, were designed to criminalize minor incidents that would not have warranted prosecution before.
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 defines anti-social behaviour as acting in a manner that has "caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household" as the perpetrator. There has been debate concerning the vagueness of this definition.
In a survey conducted by University College London during May 2006, the UK was thought by respondents to be Europe's worst country for anti-social behaviour, with 76% believing Britain had a "big or moderate problem".
Current legislation governing anti-social behaviour in the UK is the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 which received Royal Assent in March 2014 and came into enforcement in October 2014. This replaces tools such as the ASBO with 6 streamlined tools designed to make it easier to act on anti-social behaviour.
Anti-social behaviour can have a negative effect and impact on Australian communities and their perception of safety. The Western Australia Police force define antisocial behaviour as any behaviour that annoys, irritates, disturbs or interferes with a persons’ ability to go about their lawful business. In Australia, many different acts are classed as anti-social behaviour such as, misuse of public space, disregard for community safety, disregard for personal well-being, acts directed at people, graffiti, protests, liquor offences and drunk driving. It has been found that it is very common for Australian adolescents to engage in different levels of anti-social behaviour. A survey was conducted in 1996 in New South Wales, Australia, of 441, 234 secondary school students in years 7 to 12 about their involvement in anti-social activities. 38.6 percent reported intentionally damaging or destroying someone else's property, 22.8 percent admitted to having received or selling stolen goods and close to 40 percent confessed to attacking someone with the idea of hurting them. The Australian community are encouraged to report any behaviour of concern and play a vital role assisting police in reducing anti-social behaviour. One study conducted in 2016 established how perpetrators of anti-social behaviour may not actually intend to cause offense. The study examined anti-social behaviours (or microaggressions) within the LGBTIQ community on a university campus. The study established how many members felt that other people would often commit anti-social behaviours, however there was no explicit suggestion of any maliciousness behind these acts. Rather, it was just that the offenders were naive to impact of their behaviour.
The Western Australia Police force uses a three step strategy to deal with antisocial behaviour.
- Prevention – This action uses community engagement, intelligence, training and development and the targeting of hotspots, attempting to prevent unacceptable behaviour from occurring.
- Response – A timely and effective response to antisocial behaviour is vital. Police provide ownership, leadership and coordination to apprehend offenders.
- Resolution – Identifying the underlying issues that cause anti-social behaviour are determined and resolved with the help of the community and offenders are successfully prosecuted.
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A pattern of behavior that is verbally or physically harmful to other people, animals, or property, including behavior that severely violates social expectations for a particular environment.
Antisocial behavior can be broken down into two components: the presence of antisocial (i.e., angry, aggressive, or disobedient) behavior and the absence of prosocial (i.e., communicative, affirming, or cooperative) behavior. Most children exhibit some antisocial behavior during their development, and different children demonstrate varying levels of prosocial and antisocial behavior. Some children may exhibit high levels of both antisocial and prosocial behaviors; for example, the popular but rebellious child. Some, however, may exhibit low levels of both types of behaviors; for example, the withdrawn, thoughtful child. High levels of antisocial behavior are considered a clinical disorder. Young children may exhibit hostility towards authority, and be diagnosed with oppositional-defiant disorder. Older children may lie, steal, or engage in violent behaviors, and be diagnosed with conduct disorder. Mental health professionals agree, and rising rates of serious school disciplinary problems, delinquency, and violent crime indicate, that antisocial behavior in general is increasing. Thirty to 70% of childhood psychiatric admissons are for disruptive behavior disorders, and diagnoses of behavior disorders are increasing overall. A small percentage of antisocial children grow up to become adults with antisocial personality disorder, and a greater proportion suffer from the social, academic, and occupational failures resulting from their antisocial behavior.
Causes and characteristics
Factors that contribute to a particular child's antisocial behavior vary, but usually they include some form of family problems (e.g., marital discord, harsh or inconsistent disciplinary practices or actual child abuse, frequent changes in primary caregiver or in housing, learning or cognitive disabilities, or health problems). Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is highly correlated with antisocial behavior. A child may exhibit antisocial behavior in response to a specific stressor (such as the death of a parent or a divorce) for a limited period of time, but this is not considered a psychiatric condition. Children and adolescents with antisocial behavior disorders have an increased risk of accidents, school failure, early alcohol and substance use, suicide, and criminal behavior. The elements of a moderate to severely antisocial personality are established as early as kindergarten. Antisocial children score high on traits of impulsiveness, but low on anxiety and reward-dependence—that is, the degree to which they value, and are motivated by, approval from others. Yet underneath their tough exterior antisocial children have low self-esteem.
A salient characteristic of antisocial children and adolescents is that they appear to have no feelings. Besides showing no care for others' feelings or remorse for hurting others, they tend to demonstrate none of their own feelings except anger and hostility, and even these are communicated by their aggressive acts and not necessarily expressed through affect. One analysis of antisocial behavior is that it is a defense mechanism that helps the child to avoid painful feelings, or else to avoid the anxiety caused by lack of control over the environment.
Antisocial behavior may also be a direct attempt to alter the environment. Social learning theory suggests that negative behaviors are reinforced during childhood by parents, caregivers, or peers. In one formulation, a child's negative behavior (e.g., whining, hitting) initially serves to stop the parent from behaving in ways that are aversive to the child (the parent may be fighting with a partner, yelling at a sibling, or even crying). The child will apply the learned behavior at school, and a vicious cycle sets in: he or she is rejected, becomes angry and attempts to force his will or assert his pride, and is then further rejected by the very peers from whom he might learn more positive behaviors. As the child matures, "mutual avoidance" sets in with the parent(s), as each party avoids the negative behaviors of the other. Consequently, the child receives little care or supervision and, especially during adolescence, is free to join peers who have similarly learned antisocial means of expression.
Different forms of antisocial behavior will appear in different settings. Antisocial children tend to minimize the frequency of their negative behaviors, and any reliable assessment must involve observation by mental health professionals, parents, teachers, or peers.
The most important goals of treating antisocial behavior are to measure and describe the individual child's or adolescent's actual problem behaviors and to effectively teach him or her the positive behaviors that should be adopted instead. In severe cases, medication will be administered to control behavior, but it should not be used as substitute for therapy. Children who experience explosive rage respond well to medication. Ideally, an interdisciplinary team of teachers, social workers, and guidance counselors will work with parents or caregivers to provide universal or "wrap-around" services to help the child in all aspects of his or her life: home, school, work, and social contexts. In many cases, parents themselves need intensive training on modeling and reinforcing appropriate behaviors in their child, as well as in providing appropriate discipline to prevent inappropriate behavior.
A variety of methods may be employed to deliver social skills training, but especially with diagnosed antisocial disorders, the most effective methods are systemic therapies which address communication skills among the whole family or within a peer group of other antisocial children or adolescents. These probably work best because they entail actually developing (or redeveloping) positive relationships between the child or adolescent and other people. Methods used in social skills training include modeling, role playing, corrective feedback, and token reinforcement systems. Regardless of the method used, the child's level of cognitive and emotional development often determines the success of treatment. Adolescents capable of learning communication and problem-solving skills are more likely to improve their relations with others.
Unfortunately, conduct disorders, which are the primary form of diagnosed antisocial behavior, are highly resistant to treatment. Few institutions can afford the comprehensiveness and intensity of services required to support and change a child's whole system of behavior; in most cases, for various reasons, treatment is terminated (usually by the client) long before it is completed. Often, the child may be fortunate to be diagnosed at all. Schools are frequently the first to address behavior problems, and regular classroom teachers only spend a limited amount of time with individual students. Special education teachers and counselors have a better chance at instituting long-term treatment programs—that is, if the student stays in the same school for a period of years. One study showed teenage boys with conduct disorder had had an average of nine years of treatment by 15 different institutions. Treatments averaged seven months each.
Studies show that children who are given social skills instruction decrease their antisocial behavior, especially when the instruction is combined with some form of supportive peer group or family therapy. But the long-term effectiveness of any form of therapy for antisocial behavior has not been demonstrated. The fact that peer groups have such a strong influence on behavior suggests that schools that employ collaborative learning and the mainstreaming of antisocial students with regular students may prove most beneficial to the antisocial child. Because the classroom is a natural environment, learned skills do not need to be transferred. By judiciously dividing the classroom into groups and explicitly stating procedures for group interactions, teachers can create opportunities for positive interaction between antisocial and other students.
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