How to detect early signs of violence in children

How to detect early signs of violence in children

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Valentine's Day school shooting that left 17 people dead in Florida has people wondering what they can do to prevent such an event from happening again.

Dr. Mallory Malkin, a child psychologist with Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services, said the signs for early detection are often present.

"It could be a variety of predisposing factors going on," said Malkin. "It could be some biological inclination, as far as if there's any kind of neuro-developmental disorder or disruption going on. It could be environmental. So, there could be a lot of modeling or observation of very violent assault or altercations in their home or in their community."

Malkin said professionals in the education field should be paying close attention to certain behaviors in students such as:

  • withdrawal from activities or peers
  • being disruptive in class
  • violent in nature, such as engaging in harmful physical activity
  • disciplinary issues, such as in and out of school suspensions
  • being argumentative
  • displaying verbal and physical aggression

"Really looking at the kind of mood, stability, current and previous stressors. Was there financial difficulty, loss of a job of one of the parents, family dynamic shift or change in mood? So, really paying attention to those major transitions in life," Malkin said.

Malkin said if a student has any concerns or detects violent behavior from another student, it's wise to not approach the student directly, but to contact a trusted adult. Malkin said it's important for adults to talk with students who express concern about a peer to address the situation early on.

"Some kids and teenagers have a propensity towards violence," Malkin said. "With that in mind, they are more inclined to engage in more violent behavior than a typical child or teenager."

Engaging in cruelty to animals is another early sign of violent behavior, according to Malkin.

"Posting or engaging in very disruptive, violent games, whether computer or role play games, and posting and seeking out attention with very violent, homicidal ideation posts are all very attention-seeking in a lot of ways," said Malkin.

She said in the situation regarding the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the shooter appeared to show signs of attention-seeking.

"It does appear that he was engaging in a lot of social media attention, and there might have been opportunities to hinder his availability of weapons," said Malkin.

She said early detection is key, as there is always help available.

"There could be some ways to deescalate the situation and get them to a facility where they can be properly treated if there is a severe emotional disturbance," said Malkin. "As far as if they got it made up in their mind and there's no changing it, security access to weapons really needs to be restricted."

Malkin said Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services offers several programs for troubled youth 17 and under before it's too late.

"Those really are for concerns for severe emotional dysregulation disturbances, behavioral disturbances, suicidality, homicide idolization, any sort of physically aggressive or verbally aggressive," said Malkin.

She said once a person in put through intake, they are kept for a period of time for stabilization purposes. Malkin said treatment is based on the specifics needs of the child.

If you know someone who shows violent or aggressive behavior, follow this link to find out more about how to help: