The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes behavioral disorders as involving “a pattern of disruptive behaviors in children that last for at least 6 months and cause problems in school, at home, and in social situations”.
This is different from the challenging behaviors children sometimes display. Almost all children will have tantrums, or act in aggressive, angry, or defiant ways at some point.
While challenging, these behaviors are a normal part of childhood development. Often, they are the result of strong emotions that the child is expressing in the only way they know how.
As a result, healthcare professionals only diagnose a behavioral disorder when the disruptive behaviors are severe, persistent, and outside the norm for the child’s developmental stage.
Behavioral disorders are also different from autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which is an umbrella term for neurodevelopmental conditions that affect how some children communicate, socialize, and process sensory stimuli.