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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

Learn More

Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Why Does My Child Act Out?

Mood swings, anxiety, self-centeredness, restlessness, and difficulty with controlling emotions are common symptoms in children who have suffered a brain injury.

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The severity of any of these symptoms varies with the person and the type of injury that occurred, and what part of the brain was affected. Any injury to an infant’s or child’s brain is more severe than in an adult; the immaturity of the brain and the potential for impairments to cognitive abilities that haven’t yet developed complicate matters.

As they develop, a child may have trouble making judgments, processing information, and reasoning. It can be months or years after birth before such issues become apparent.

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The Connection Between Brain Damage and Behavior

A child may act out because the part of their brain in control of behavior and emotions may have been involved in the injury. The pre-frontal cortex, or forward-facing part of the brain, is responsible for controlling emotions, so any damage evident to this area may lead to behavioral problems. In children who have previously suffered an injury, sudden emotional responses may have no obvious causes. The words or actions of others often have nothing to do with an outburst.

Children may also not be able to respond according to the emotion or situation. For example, a person may start crying and not feel sad, or they may start laughing even if their feelings or a situation may not be funny. An emotional response to something sad or negative may not match that of an individual who didn’t suffer a brain injury.

Misunderstood Behaviors

The frustration with themselves or with others may cause a child to act out as well. They may have trouble concentrating on a topic or switch from one subject to another very quickly. It can also be difficult to focus on a given task for very long.

If memory has been affected, a person might not recall doing something wrong, or the things learned to remedy it. They may not remember instructions or new information that has been acquired. In addition to processing information at a slower rate, they may be impulsive. Any lack of judgment or ability to solve problems can make it difficult to act in a way that’s considered appropriate.

Impairments to Judgements and Interpretations

A child who has suffered a brain injury at birth may have difficulty planning and organizing their behaviors. They can be slow to take in information, but also overwhelmed by even small amounts. Socially, the challenges can be difficult because interpreting what other say or do may be hard, so the person may react to something that was misunderstood internally.

Secondary Impacts of Brain Injury Can Affect Behavior

Many of these issues explain why a child acts out. The structural, chemical and psychological changes after an injury can have unpredictable effects. Birth brain injuries can also lead to conditions associated with anxiety, which can cause a child to act out if they don’t know how to control their thoughts and emotions. Therefore, the mental health of children with birth brain injuries needs to be addressed as much as the physical and cognitive aspects.