How Teachers Can Recognize and Deal With Antisocial Student Behavior in School


While teaching, you may encounter a student with antisocial behavior. The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice notes that between 4 and 6 million children who are in school display antisocial behavior. Several factors can contribute to antisocial behavior in school. For example, LD Online lists problems regulating emotions, early aggressive behavior, rejection from classmates, academic failure that starts during elementary school, and no academic commitment as risk factors for antisocial behavior.

Signs of Antisocial Behavior

As a teacher, you may notice some of these signs which can indicate antisocial behavior. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines antisocial behaviors as “any acts that violate social rules and the basic rights of others. They include conduct intended to injure people or damage property, illegal behavior, and defiance of generally accepted rules and authority, such as truancy from school.” Severe symptoms of antisocial behaviors may qualify the child for a diagnosis of conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR).

Antisocial behaviors can be divided into two categories: overt antisocial behaviors and covert antisocial behaviors. An example of an overt antisocial behavior in school you might see is fighting, while an example of a covert antisocial behavior is a theft in which the student does not confront the victim, such as taking something out of a desk or backpack when the other child is not there. Children with antisocial behavior may have relationship problems with their teachers and classmates and may also suffer from depression, according to Lee Anna Raser of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Dealing with Antisocial Behavior at School

If you do have a student in your classroom who has antisocial behavior, you have several options. Raser notes that music therapy may help with many of the problems that arise with antisocial behavior; for example, music therapy may help with developing empathy and social skills. With music therapy, the child can use musical instruments or song writing as outlets, as well as ways to work on appropriate behavior and improve peer interaction.

The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice suggests a three tier prevention program for antisocial behavior in school. The primary prevention involves doing school-wide activities, such as teaching students how to do conflict resolution. With secondary prevention, students who are at-risk for antisocial behavior participate in more specialized activities, such as counseling or social skills training. A student with serious antisocial behavior may benefit from tertiary prevention, which involves interventions targeting the specific behaviors the student displays, and may include the student's parents, as well as school administrators, other teachers that this student has and professionals trained in working with antisocial behaviors. If you have a student that is displaying these symptoms, talk to your school's counseling center or administrators to see what options are available to help this student.


NIAAA: Childhood Antisocial Behavior and Adolescent Alcohol Use Disorders

LD Online: Preventing Antisocial Behavior in Disabled and At-Risk

Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice: Preventing Antisocial Behavior

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire: Antisocial Behavior – General Goals and Treatment Methods