Behavioural challenges in toddlers and young children can have multiple causes. There is a large amount of conflicting research around what affects little boys behaviours, with no real evidence to suggest that it is just a burst of testosterone. I believe that a number of factors including hormones such as testosterone, and environmental and social experiences affect children’s abilities to self regulate, communicate and adhere to socially accepted and expected norms.
- Are the adult’s expectations of a child’s behaviour right for that child’s developmental stage? – preschoolers just don’t think like adults!
- Are boundaries and expectations taught in positive ways that the child understands? – convince the child it’s the behaviour you want to improve and that you love them always.
- Are there any socio-emotional issues that are affecting a child’s actions/reactions? Family violence/abuse? post natal depression? poverty? or attachment disorders?
There is very little reading available around 2 year olds (terrible two’s) other than their struggle and frustrations to communicate, learn social rules and concepts while dealing with their families fast paced worlds. There is little to suggest testosterone is the culprit.
Early language development can be attributed to lower testosterone with at least one study suggesting that this is why girls talk earlier than boys, can communicate better and get less frustrated equaling less challenging behaviour. Higher levels lead to less early language and a toddlers preference for larger groups and later aggressive play. (Alexander,2014; Friederici, et al. 2008). This must not be read in a vacuum and will only play one part in how a child learns and copes with different situations. Having positive role models and present supportive adults should be seen as key to positive learning out comes.
Children grow and learn so rapidly and there are a multitude of reasons why they might have challenging behaviours. Check your own behaviours, expectations and strategies for helping wee ones through this awesome time in a child’s life.
Snippets and articles for further reading.
“Increased testosterone may be linked to increased levels of aggression 1. But there is certainly no link between testosterone and inattention or over activity 2. So, if Mr. four years old suddenly started to fight or behave in an aggressive manner it could be linked to an increase in testosterone – however, a four year old who does not listen or is generally acting up is not likely to be caused by any hormonal changes”. (Evidencebasedparent, 2014).
“What’s Really up With a Four Year Old Boy’s Behaviour Then?
In short – Us, me, you, parents, adults, society…….. We don’t really “get” normal little boy behaviour, which is strange given that around half of all adults have been one. Little boys (and that is what a four year old is) need to play, play, play, play, play and play some more. They need open space, nature, air. They need trees to climb, balls to kick, mud to squelch, frisbees to throw. They need to be allowed to use their amazing imaginations and explore the world with their whole bodies” (Ockwell-Smith, 2014).
Alexander, G. M. (2014). Postnatal testosterone concentrations and male social development.
Evidencebasedparent , (2014) http://evidencebasedparent.blogspot.co.nz/2014/07/the-myth-of-toddler-testosterone-surge.html
Friederici, A. D., Pannekamp, A., Partsch, C. J., Ulmen, U., Oehler, K., Schmutzler, R., & Hesse, V. (2008). Sex hormone testosterone affects language organization in the infant brain. Neuroreport, 19(3), 283-286.