We all have feelings of anger and aggression, and so does your child. These impulses are normal and healthy. They can also be dangerous, however, if not controlled. As a toddler or preschooler, your youngster still lacks the self-control to express his anger peacefully. Instead, he naturally lashes out, perhaps hitting or biting in frustration. When this happens, he needs you to take control for him and to help him develop judgment, self-discipline, and the other tools he needs in order to express his bad feelings in more acceptable ways.

While occasional violent outbursts are normal in youngsters, especially during temper tantrums, it is not normal for a child to have frequent rages in which he attacks others or himself. Most children get angry at others only when they are provoked. Unless they are very tired or overstressed, they usually can be distracted or consoled, and will quickly forget their anger. They may cry, argue, or yell, but they resort to violence only when they are extremely frustrated.

Some children are supersensitive, easily offended, and easily angered. Many of these youngsters have been tense and unsually active since birth. They are often more difficult to sooth and settle as infants. Beginning in the preschool years, they show signs of becoming violent towards other children, adults, even animals. They often lash out suddenly and for no apparent reason, and may seem to be touchy or irritable most of the time. Even if they hurt someone in anger, they rarely are sorry, and never feel responsible for the incident. Instead, they blame the child for "making me angry", as if this excuses their own actions.

Your child might go through a brief period of this kind of behavior if he's particularly worried, tired, or overstressed, but if it continues for more than a few weeks, consult your pediatrician. If it becomes a routine, daily pattern for more than three to six months, it should be viewed as a serious problem.

No one knows exactly what causes conduct disorder. The problem may lie in the child's biological make-up, the relationships within the family, or a combination of the two. In many cases, other members of the child's family behave violently and the atmosphere within the family is tense and stressful. In some cases, there is no clear explanation for the child's behavior.