What is typical development?

Growing up is not easy. All children will present with expected behaviors that cause distress and difficulties as part of typical development. Children have to learn a lot of things while growing up. They have to learn how to walk and talk, understand and deal with their emotions, communicate and socialize with peers and older people, and learn what are acceptable behaviors for each context of their lives. With so many things to learn, it is expected that children may present some difficulties and delays in acquiring some skills, understanding and dealing with difficult emotions, and carrying out appropriate behaviors at all times.


If some difficulties are typical, when should I be concerned a problem may be present?

Knowing when a behavior is typical or atypical is not easy. But as a rule, there are six things that can help to differentiate it. 

  • Frequency. Most concerns emerge when some emotions or behaviors appear in a frequency that interferes and hinders the child and adolescent's life. For example, it is typical to be worried from time to time when new or challenging things are happening in our lives. However, worrying all the time, most of the day, or everyday may indicate a concern. 
  • Intensity. Most children and adolescents show mild emotional or behavioral difficulties. For example, it is typical for preschoolers to have mild tantrums, and for adolescents to exhibit mood volatility and aggressiveness when provoked. When such behaviors result in destruction of property, cruelty to people or animals, there is an indication of more serious emotional or behavioral concerns.
  • Duration. Concerns also emerge when emotions or behaviors have a duration higher than what is expected for a situation. For example, it is expected from a child to be angry for a while, or right after being frustrated about something that did or did not happen. However, frequently feeling persistent anger, for example, for longer than a few days may indicate a concern.
  • Context. Behaviors and emotions are generally a response to things that happen around us. Behaviors that occur as a response to a specific context are different from those that occur without a context or precipitating events. For example, a young child's tantrum after stopping a pleasurable activity, such as screen time, is more likely to be typical than a tantrum that happens out of the blue. 
  • Uncommon behaviors/experiences. Some behaviors/experiences are uncommon and can be a cause of concern independently of whether they are frequent, have a long duration or occur in a specific context. For example, self-injury, unusual sensory experiences such as hearing voices or seeing things that others cannot see, are examples of experiences that indicate the necessity of immediate attention from a caregiver or professional.
  • Impairment. Finally, the most important rule when trying to understand if an emotion and behavior is typical or atypical is trying to understand the impact of those behaviors in the child and family's daily lives. Behaviors and emotions that interfere with school, friends, family members and pleasure time are more likely to represent a significant concern than emotions and behaviors that do not interfere with daily lives and are not generating distress or difficulties.


What are concerns about children and adolescents?

Concerns about children and adolescents can be typically divided into three main groups. 

  • The first is related to concerns about learning during development. Concerns that emerge from these types of difficulties typically emerge very early in life and represent a failure to acquire and develop expected milestones, such as walking, talking or potty training, as well as delays or difficulties in learning new things, such as reading, writing, doing math activities and effectively communicating with others.
  • The second is related to concerns about emotions. Concerns that emerge from these types of difficulties can emerge early in life, but also later in development such as in adolescence. They are usually related to experiencing intense emotions, such as fear, anxiety, sadness, and anger, and are commonly associated with avoidance and withdrawal from pleasurable activities. 
  • The last is related to concerns about behaviors. Concerns that emerge from these types of difficulties can emerge early in life, but also later in development such as in adolescence. They represent difficulties in understanding rules and social norms, therefore leading to inappropriate, or rule-breaking behaviors. They commonly happen in outgoing children and adolescents, and novelty and sensation seekers. 


Below you can find a list of common concerns about children and adolescents. The short guides of this package will address all those problems in detail and refer to further materials and information when a significant difficulty is present. 


Concerns about learning

Concerns about emotions

Concerns about behaviors

Early developmental


Rule breaking behavior 







Social communication 

Fear of being apart from a caregiver


Restricted  and repetitive movements



Difficulties with bladder

Ritualistic behaviors and
repetitive movements

Alcohol and substance use


Obsessive thoughts

Excessive screen use




Body image






Distress after traumatic experiences


Panic attacks





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