about anger, aggression and violence

Everyone has angry feelings, and they are a normal reaction when things go wrong, life feels unfair or people upset or hurt us. Children and young people show these feelings in different ways.

Toddlers and young children often have tantrums when they don’t get their own way or feel frustrated. They can scream, hit and destroy things, and this is often their way of saying they don’t like what they are feeling - if they can't tell us in words, they use their behaviour.

Teenagers can be very defiant and refuse to keep to their parents’ rules as they try and push the boundaries to increase their independence. Hormone changes and changes in the brain mean that many teenagers have trouble controlling their behaviour, seeing other people's point of view and doing things if they can't see the point. This can feel quite frightening for the teenagers as well as the parents.

Children and young people can show their anger by shouting, refusing to do what they are told, saying horrible things and trying to upset others. They can break or smash things, and hit or hurt their parents and other family and friends.

Children and young people can feel angry for many reasons, including the following:

  • Struggling to cope with hormone changes during puberty
  • Parents arguing or splitting up
  • Being jealous of a brother or sister
  • Feeling rejected by parents or family
  • Seeing other family members fighting or hurting each other
  • Friendship problems
  • Being bullied or hurt
  • Struggling with reading, writing or schoolwork
  • Exam stress or academic pressure
  • Being very anxious or stressed about something
  • Money worries, poverty and housing problems
  • Having to look after a parent or relative
  • Splitting up with a boyfriend/girlfriend.

Having some angry feelings is normal at all ages, but some children and young people struggle more than others to control these feelings and to sort the problems out. Angry feelings and aggressive behaviour can be very hard to deal with and can have a big effect on family life. Parents, carers and siblings can feel they are 'walking on eggshells' around the child, to try and avoid the anger.  Parents and carers can feel scared for their own safety and powerless in relation to their child.

Some children and young people get involved with violence outside the home, through their friends, criminal activity or gangs. See further info for more on gangs.