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Problem Social Behaviors

Some children have trouble getting along with others. Parents of 6- to 17-year-olds were asked if their children had never, rarely, sometimes, usually, or always exhibited each of the following behaviors in the past month: arguing too much; bullying or being cruel or mean to others; being disobedient; and being stubborn, sullen, or irritable.

The prevalence of specific problem behaviors varied greatly. Parents of 21.3 percent of children reported that they usually or always argued too much in the past month, while only 2.3 percent bullied or were cruel to others during that time. Parents reported that 4.8 percent of children were reported to usually or always be disobedient and 9.8 percent of children were stubborn, sullen, or irritable.

While many children may occasionally misbehave, children were considered to have problem social behaviors if their parents responded "usually" or "always" to two or more of these problem behavior questions. Overall, 8.9 percent of children were reported to consistently convey problem social behaviors (data not shown).

The proportion of parents reporting that their children consistently display problem social behaviors varied only slightly by sex: 8.4 percent of boys and 9.3 percent of girls aged 6-17 years were reported to do so. The prevalence of these behaviors, however, is lower in higher-income households. Among children aged 6-17 years with household incomes below the poverty level, 16.1 percent were reported to consistently display problem social behaviors, compared to 7.3 percent of children with household incomes between 200 and 399 percent of poverty and 4.9 percent of children with household incomes of 400 percent or more of poverty.