Behavioral Problems of Schoolchildren and the Psychological Counseling Approaches Implemented by Counselors for Treating them
*Mohammad Q Abdullah
Department of Counseling Psychology, University of Aleppo, Syria
Submission: July 15, 2017; Published: July 28, 2017
*Corresponding author: Mohammad Q Abdullah, Department of Counseling Psychology, University of Aleppo, Syria;
How to cite this article: M Q Abdullah. Behavioral Problems of Schoolchildren and the Psychological Counseling Approaches Implemented by Counselors for Treating them. Psychol Behav Sci Int J. 2017; 5(3): 555661. DOI: 10.19080/PBSIJ.2017.05.555661
The aim of this study was to examine and evaluate the behavioral problems of schoolchildren in basic education stage and the psychological counseling approaches implemented by their counselor for treating it. In addition to, assessing the differences in these approaches according to the variables of gender and educational qualification/degree. The sample consisted of (240) counselors (125 male, 115 female) enrolled from five educational administrations. The procedure has been used concluded Scale constructed for assessing the behavioral problems students and the psychological counseling approaches used by counselors. The instrument's characteristics scored high level of validity and reliability. The findings showed that the most common behavioral problems were disobedience of teacher's underachievement, ,delaying the academic tasks, absence from school. In addition, the most counseling approaches used by counselors were individual and group counseling, Leisure time counseling, rational-emotive therapy, plying counseling, reality therapy, and client-centered therapy. According to the differences in counseling approaches related to gender and academic qualification and the degree of counselors, there were no significant differences except for the approaches of cognitive, behavioral and group counseling techniques and approaches.
In the present era where every day we are stepping ahead to technological advancement, with the increasing pressure on children to achieve, breaking up of the families and rapidly hanging sociocultural paradigm, rise in the behavior problems in children is also similarly steep and disrupting.
Children and teens can seem irritable or even hostile when they are tired or are not feeling well. They may argue with parents or disobey them because they are trying to show that they are growing up. Young children may lie because they are too young to understand the difference between the truth and a lie. Sometimes they lie to get themselves out of trouble. This is normal. When they act this way all the time, or when this behavior gets them into trouble all the time at home, at school, or with other kids in the neighborhood, they may have what we call a disruptive behavior disorder Prakash . Knowledge of child mental health problems is important not only because they result in suffering for children and those around the children, but also because they interfere with the social and educational development and can lead to life-long social and psychiatric problems Rutter .
There is little consensus on the extent to which manifestations of psychiatric symptoms is universal or the extent to which they can be affected by cultural aspects. However, since studies have found prevalence rates to vary all over the world, it seems necessary to consider culture and context in determining the way in which children's psychopathology may be manifested Canino and Alegría , R Hackett and L Hackett , Roberts . There is also evidence that child disorders may vary between developed and developing countries, making it necessary to distinguish studies by each country, as well Fleitlich-Bilyk . In fact, a major gap in the epidemiology of child mental problems has been considered the lack of studies regarding the date on the prevalence rates in low-middle income countries Kieling et al. ; Rohde ; Giel R .
As children in primary school are vulnerable to any infection, similarly they adopt behavior disorders in this age group. However, it remains a cause of concern for their parents until they are grown up. Many times parents do not bother for such habits and later on, they repent. Language and speech disorder are in school age population and are more prevalent in toddlers and pre-school but they are not observed in our study. Similarly, sleep disorder is also not observed in any child. Although the school age children morbidity is low in habit disorder and behavior problems, which keep them away from friends due to feeling of guilt, Anderson . There are two main types of disruptive behavior disorders: Oppositional Deviant Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder (CD). An extensive review of issues pertaining to the relationship between externalizing behavior problems and academic underachievement stated that, in childhood, inattention and hyperactivity strongly correlates to academic problems than aggression Eimani-Oshnari ; Anderson .
Estimates of the number of school-aged children with emotional problems vary. Incidence and prevalence figures are controversial, with estimates ranging from 2-3% to 22% Fleisch and Goodman ; Lund . The numbers increase when those referred to as at risk are included Lavin . Review of recent studies concentrating on mental health problems amongst school going children showed the prevalence figures varying from 6.33% to 43.1% in Indian context (1-6). International context showed similar variability. (7- 10) The available literature also speaks of variability and inadequacies of diagnostic methods, research criteria, treatment modalities and psychosocial interventions Prakash .
Research suggests, however, that there is a considerable number of false positive misdiagnoses (i.e., the labeling of youngsters who do not have true disabilities/disorders). What is clear is that schools can accomplish their goal of teaching only when they have addressed the psychosocial problems that interfere with students' learning. In schools, youngsters with serious emotional and learning problems usually are assisted under the auspices of «special education.» Of course, many students with behavior, learning, and emotional problems do not meet the criteria for special education. Their needs must be addressed through support programs and other accommodations, especially psychological counseling programs in schools, Fleitlich and Goodman .
Saurl and Loureiro  investigate mental health problems, including behavioral and emotional problems, in a cohort of schoolchildren according to gender to assess the associations of family characteristics and behavioral performance for boys and girls. Data from 677 children born in Ribeirao Preto (SP), Brazil, when they were 10/11 years old were available. The mental health assessment was performed using the Brazilian version of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Results showed that the prevalence rates for boys and girls were, respectively: 41.7% and 34.5% for total difficulties score, 50.4% and 57.6% for emotional symptoms, 31.2% and 18.8% for hyperactivity, 38.8% and 27.6% for conduct problems, 27.1% and 26.7% for peer problems and, 4.7% and 2.7% for prosocial behavior. The family characteristics associated with behavioral problems were low socioeconomic status for boys and low maternal education and families with more than four members for girls Deivasignamini ; Sakar .
Anderson conducted study on Jamaican children and which showed that the children have suffered many times from psychosocial and handicapping conditions such as a lack of understanding and empathy from teachers, administrators and their peers. The literature is replete with evidence of such treatment leading to negative student behavior and the resultant poor performance. Consistent with this, is the reality that the number of students with special needs or learning difficulties has been increasing rapidly. Of those children with special needs, however, the ones most likely to be misunderstood are those with emotional and behavioral disorders. This paper calls to question the issue of what researchers consider normal behavior in schools. A discussion of the construct "emotional and behavioral disorders" within the preview of the Jamaican educational system is provided in order to give credence and validity to this paper. Intervention/Treatment models are offered followed by practical and evidenced-based classroom strategies addressing the needs of students with emotional and behavior disorders. Discussing the aforementioned also support the researchers view that changes are long overdue in creating standards and significant guidelines for helping students with emotional and behavioral problems Roberts .
Behavioral problems in children are on the rise. Available literature speaks of variability and inadequacies of diagnostic methods, research criteria, treatment modalities and psychosocial interventions. In their research Prakash , the methods included 50 children of age 6-14 years attending government school were assessed for behavior problems. Children were selected after appropriate randomization and subsequently assigned to child behavior checklist. The data thus collected were suitably interpreted using appropriate statistical tests. The Results indicated that Twenty-one (42%) children were found to be above the cut-off score. Mean CBCL score was 43.3. Most common behavior problems in these subjects were "cannot sit still, restless, hyperactive" shown by 62% of the subjects. Female children had behavior problems like "too concerned with neatness or cleanliness, "self conscious or easily embarrassed" and "feels she has to be perfect" where male children had behavior problems like. "Does not feel guilty after misbehaving", cannot concentrate" and "restless". The Conclusion of the study is that, the analysis of pattern of distribution of behavior problems in the subjects revealed them more of externalizing ones. There is evidence that Female children had more of internalizing behavior problems Prakash .
Behavioral problems and psychiatric syndromes in the children are a matter of concern as the consequences can seriously impair their ability to become useful and productive citizens of tomorrow .The vulnerability of the child tends to increase when effective parenting is not available. This study was planned with the aim to assess the prevalence of behavioral problems among school going children. The research findings will help in determining the prevalence, associated Factors and predictors that are useful in early diagnosis and management. Reviews of the study done in this field reveal that the prevalence of behavior problems in children is alarmingly high. Diverse method of data collection and equally diverse method of diagnosis generated these rates Abdullah .
Understanding the root cause of the child's behavior is essential, as without this it is unlikely that any behavior strategy will be sustainable Tolan . There are five basic models in understanding child behavior. These include biological, behavioral, Cognitive, systemic and psychodynamic. The systemic approach looks at targeting the individual's behavior within the system. These systems can include their family, their friends, their school, their classmates, their community, and their outside school clubs Abdullah .
The counselors should use many techniques and approaches for conducting counseling programs depending on the theories of counseling and psychotherapy (e.g. Reality therapy, client- centered counseling, group therapy, behavioral counseling, systematic, and family). Hence, the study will focus on investigating the behavioral problems of schoolchildren and the approaches used by their counselors to treat their problems.
Participants: The total population of the counselors in the formal educational schools consisted of (3500) psychological counselors (specialization: psychology and counseling), and (1500) social counselors (specialization: sociology and social workers) according to the statistics of the Department of Educational Researches in Ministry of Education. Participants of the study included 240 counselors enrollled (125 males, 115 females) enrolled from five cities in Syria.
The instrument used in the study was a questionnaire constructed by the present researcher, which was divided into 2 parts: The first, included (50-items) for scaling the behavioral problems of school children the perspectives of their counselors, in addition to one open question at the end of this section. The second part of the instrument included (20-items) related to psychological counseling techniques/ theoretical approaches the have been used by counselors for treating those problems, in addition to one open question about the approaches that were not consisted or mentioned in the scale.
The instrument evaluates behavioral (emotional, social, cognitive) problems regarding the classroom behavior, learning- teaching, participation in group, such as (e g. Underachievement, teacher's mistreatment, attention problems, anti-social behaviors, sexual deviation, food disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, sleep disorders ,disruptive behavior, aggression, loneness, test anxiety, shyness, anger, learning difficulties,). Reliability and validity of this scale is 0.89 and, Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for the scale is 0.86 and for subscales vary from 0.79 to 0.89.
Data Collection and Analysis: Descriptive statistics have been used ( percentages, M, SD), and T test for assessing the significance of differences regarding the counselor's gender variable , Fisher test for assessing the differences in psychological counseling approaches implemented by counselors regarding the academic qualifications/degree variable.
For answering the first question: «What are most common behavioral problems among schools children», the statistical analysis showed the following results presented in the (Tables 1 & 2).
We can see from Table 3 that the most common counseling approaches used by counselors for treating children's problems are in succession: Individual counseling, Group therapy, Leisure time counseling, Clint-Centered therapy, Systematic counseling, and Behavioral counseling. While the latest counseling techniques have been implicated were Logo therapy & existential counseling, Gestalt psychotherapy, Eclectic psychotherapy, Egan's Effective helping counseling and finally, Family counseling approach.
As we can see from table (1) that the most common behavioral problems of children in schools were: disobedience of teachers (M= 4.35), underachievement (M= 4.31), aggressive behaviors (M= 4.26), delaying the academic tasks (M=4.13), repeated absence from schools (M= 3.97), teacher's maltreatment of child (M= 3.85), difficulties with teachers (M=3.71), loneness (M=3.66). Whereas test anxiety, shyness, anger, impulsiveness, learning disabilities were the lowest problems as presented in Table 2.
As shown in Table 2 is the lowest problems consecutively: obsessive- compulsive problems, bedwetting, Sexual deviation, eating problems, sleep problems, hyperactivity, and lie and psychosis syndromes.
We can see from table (3) that the most common counseling approaches used by counselors for treating children's problems are in succession: Individual counseling, group therapy, leisure time counseling, client- centered therapy, systematic counseling, and behavioral counseling. While the latest counseling techniques implemented were logo therapy and existential counseling, gestalt psychotherapy, eclectic psychotherapy, Egan's Effective helping counseling and family.
Regarding the third question «What are the differences in implementing counseling techniques regarding the variables of gender, and academic qualification of counselors». T, test was used for assessing the significance of difference in using counseling approach between male and female counselors. Table (4)
It can be seen from Table 4 that the most important counseling approaches/techniques used by school female- counselors are: Rational-Emotive Therapy (T = -2.52), Reality Therapy and plying counseling approaches (T= - 2.48, - 2.18), while the most important counseling approaches implemented by male- counselors are Client- Centered therapy (T= -2.69), Brief therapy (T= -53), and Systematic counseling approaches (T= -2.49).
Table 5 shows the significant differences of the academic qualification and degree among counselors. The findings indicate that there are significant differences between the bachelor and master degree in cognitive therapy: the counselors of master qualification and degree higher (M= 2.63) than bachelor (M=2.21). In addition in behavioral therapy among diploma (M= 3.85) than bachelor (M= 3.14), and among counselors of master higher (M= 3.78) than counselors of bachelor (M=3.20), and among master higher (M=3.95) than among counselors of diploma (M=3.63). Group therapy has been used by Counselors with diploma higher (M= 2.92) than among getting bachelor degree (M= 2.45), and it was used higher among master degree (M=2.86) than among diploma degree (M= 2.43).
The results showed that behavioral problems of schoolchildren were vicarious. The higher prevalence problems were noncompliance, low school achievement, and aggression, in contrast to the problems of obsessive-compulsive, enuresis, sexual deviation and lying that were the least problems. These problems reflect the conduct disorder in childhood, on one hand, and they must be viewed these problems in perspective of the context and environment of children inside and outside the school, especially in family .on the other hand. It has been evident that disorder is not different from the view of fathers, mothers, and teachers Eimani-Oshnar . Moreover, teachers evaluated more anxiety problems than fathers and mothers. The above findings explained by the intensity of hyperactivity symptoms and being problematic in schools and homes being the probable causes for visiting counselors; in a way that parents and teachers have observed symptoms in both environments. The cognitive and emotional problems are affected by learning problems and due to lack of attention, and are rejected by classmates due to their immature behavior. The Results of this research are consistent with the studies of Weiler et al. ; Saur and Loureiri . it is very important to direct attention to the point that the confidence associated with children problems depending on one resource, that represents the reports of their counselors and it is very important to depend on the reports of parents and teachers and doctors for diagnosing and designing counseling programs. Some behavioral problems are situational and they may be seen only in one environment (home or school), or some disorders are may be ignored due to not being problematic. The background check indicated that the grading scales are used in different cultures Kafle .
While the most important counseling approaches implemented by male- counselors are: client-centered therapy, brief therapy, and systematic counseling approaches. On the other hand, the finding showed significant differences between counselors who have the bachelor and master degree in cognitive therapy. The counselors of master qualification and degree higher than bachelor. In addition in behavioral therapy among diploma than bachelor, and among master higher than counselors of bachelor, and among master higher than among diploma. Group therapy has been used by counselor with diploma higher than among getting bachelor degree, and higher among those of master degree than among diploma degree. This finding reflects the experience and professional development of counselor's skills that can meet the demands and the variety of programs implemented to treat the behavioral problems in schools. It is very important for males and females counselor to depend on integrating trends in designing counseling programs, to meet the developmental demands and childhood tasks (Abdullah, 1992). Hence, the theoretical background represent the foundation for successful counseling programs in schools. Poulou and Norwich [23,24].
This study examined behavioral problems of schoolchildren and the counseling approaches used by their counselors for treating them. These problems affect on mental health of children and their adjustment in school. In addition, this study investigated the theoretical counseling approaches were implemented by their counselors for treating them, and the differences in applicating these approaches regarding the variables of gender and qualification or academic degree of the counselors.
The findings revealed that the higher revealing problems were noncompliance, low school achievement, and aggression, in contrast to problems of obsessive-compulsive, enuresis, sexual deviation and lying that were the least problems. On the other hand, the findings showed that, the most common counseling approaches used by counselors for treating children's problems were in succession: Individual counseling, group therapy, leisure time counseling, client-centered therapy, systematic counseling, and Behavioral counseling. While the least counseling techniques have implemented were Logo therapy & existential counseling, gestalt psychotherapy, eclectic psychotherapy, Egan's effective helping counseling and finally, family counseling approaches. The findings indicated, significant differences revealed regarding the academic qualification and degree in application the counseling approaches between counselors. Hence, these significant differences were found between counselors who have the bachelor and master degree in cognitive therapy. The counselors of master qualification scored higher than counselors of bachelor did. Additionlly, in behavioral therapy among counselors of diploma higher than counselors of bachelor, and among master higher than bachelor, and among master higher than among diploma. Group therapy has been used by counselor with diploma higher than among getting bachelor degree, and higher among master degree than among diploma degree. According to the counselor’s gender variable, the most important counseling approaches/techniques used by school female- counselors are: rational-emotive therapy, reality therapy and plying counseling approaches. While the most important counseling approaches implemented by male- counselors are: client-centered therapy, brief.
The findings indicated that, significant differences revealed regarding the academic qualification and degree in application the counseling approaches between counselors. Hence, these significant differences found between counselors with bachelor and master degree in cognitive therapy, though the counselors with master qualification and degree higher than bachelor did. In addition, behavioral therapy conducted by counselors with diploma more than with bachelor degree, and among counselors with master more than with bachelor and among counselors with master higher than along with diploma. Counselors with diploma have been used group therapy more than with bachelor degree, and higher among with master degree than along with diploma degree. According to the counselor's gender variable, the most important counseling approaches/techniques used by school female- counselors are: rational-emotive therapy, reality therapy and plying counseling approaches, while the most important counseling approaches implicated by male- counselors are: client-centered therapy, brief therapy, and systematiccounseling approaches.
a) Further research can be conducted to explore the behavioral problems (and disorders) according to developmental stages in childhood and adolescence.
b) Examine the differences in application counseling approaches and techniques among school- psychological counselors according to demographic variables.
c) Another issue that should be further studied within informing science research is the need to use other methodology such as developmental longitudinal research method, experimental method to highlight the «cause- result» hypothesis and to explore causal factors of these complex behavioral problems, in addition to the relationship between children’s mental health and school environment.
d) Incorporating a variety of counseling strategies, methods, techniques, and experiences for counselor's skills developmental program in addition to including the assessment components in counseling skills which are currently needed. A more efficient instructional delivery system would result from skills assessment of specialists seeking enhancement or development of academic practice and experiences.
The author are thankful to teaching members of the Faculty of Education at Aleppo University for reviewing the instrument of the research, and to psychological counselors in the schools for their encouragement and for applying the scales of the research.