Children who have difficulty in areas of language acquisition, cognitive development, and behavior control may be suffering from mental illness. Mental health problems that may afflict children include:
Autism and pervasive developmental disorder. Severe developmental disabilities that cause a child to become withdrawn and unresponsive.
Mental retardation. Children under age 18 with an IQ of 70 or below and impairments in adaptive functioning are considered mentally retarded.
Emotional and social health
Children take their first significant steps toward socialization and peer interaction when they begin to engage in cooperative play at around age four. Their social development will progress throughout childhood and adolescence as they develop friendships, start to be influenced by their peers, and begin to show interest in the opposite sex.
Factors which can have a negative impact on the emotional and social well-being of children include:
Violence. Bullying can cause serious damage to a child's sense of self-esteem and personal safety, as can experiences with school violence.
Family turmoil. Divorce, death, and other life-changing events that alter the family dynamic can have a serious impact on a child. Even a positive event such as the birth of a sibling or a move to a new city and school can put emotional strain on a child.
Stress. The pressure to perform well academically and in extracurricular activities such as sports can be over-whelming to some children.
Peer pressure. Although it can have a positive impact, peer pressure is often a source of significant stress for children. This is particularly true in adolescence when "fitting in" seems all-important.
Drugs and alcohol. Curiosity is intrinsic to childhood, and over 30% of children have experimented with alcohol by age 13. Open communication with children that sets forth parental expectations about drug and alcohol use is essential.
Negative sexual experiences. Sexual abuse and assault can emotionally scar a child and instill negative feelings about sexuality and relationships.
Paula Ford-Martin, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,