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At what age do personality disorders begin?

By December 9, 2008 - 2:56pm
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I am concerned about my friend's child, but have not said anything to her. Her son is 5 years old, and already seems to have some anger-management issues, and seems like a tightly-wound-up little kid. My friend and her husband are supportive of their son (no known abuse in the family or anything).

How do you know when a personality-disorder (or other mental illness) is effecting a person...even as young as 5 years old...vs what is just a more stressed out/Type A child?

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I am not a child psychologist but as a mother of two and having socialize my kids to their external environment, we have experience interactions with kids of all levels of activity, emotions, and personalities. A five year old recently shot his parents after what is alleged to be a history of "abuse" of the parents. At least that is what the boy claimed. How many times we encountered horrendous news about children's violence and teachers, friends or neighbors state: "He/she was such a happy kid, we would have never known...." I am not saying your friend's kid is in the same situation. But let's start with something before we jump to conclusions:

1. What type of behavior is this five-year old exhibiting when you say "anger management"? Is he hitting the wall? Hitting other kids?
2. Have the parents share their concerns with you? OR is it only your perception?
3. Are there other siblings at home?
4. Are both parents working and a baby sitter takes care of the child?
5. Does he socialize with other kids his age or is he at home with adults only?
6. How is his nutrition? Does he look healthy? Does he eat junk food only?
7. What is his father role in his life? Is the father active and involved?
8. Is he attending school and are teachers also concerned with his behavior?

I think before we start talking about personality disorders on a five-year old, we need to assess the environment. Loving homes are very important for a healthy development of a child. Our society is too quick to label children with X, Y, or Z personality disorder, mainly to free us from the responsibility as effective, responsible parenting or to assume accountability for our lack of attention to our children's needs for being too preoccupied with our own issues. Hyperactivity is many times confused with personality disorders, so we drug our children. But certain foods can also affect children's behaviors that manifest as "personality disorders" If we delegate parenting to child-care centers, baby sitters, etc, we also need to assume the side effects of that. I am not saying this is the case with your friend and there may be indeed some issues with this child, but let's gather more information first before we assume he is suffering from personality disorder at this tender age.

My personal take on this as a parent and health coach is that our society today takes this personality disorders business too far and we obsess over it. We are the only society in the world that wants our kids sitting quietly in a zombie-like state so they can appear "perfect" little angels. Every child is different from genetics to environmental influences, these influence their personalities and between the ages of 6-7 most personalities are molded. We, parents need to be present to observe, guide and correct the path of development without drugs, but with smart, confident parenting skills. Labeling children at such an early age is a reflection of a society obsessed "perfect child syndrome"

December 9, 2008 - 10:24pm
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