2 min · Special Needs
July 26, 2023

Impulsivity and Impulsive Behavior in Children

Children are naturally curious. Part of growing up entails exploration, pushing boundaries, breaking the rules, and deciphering social cues. Because these early years are often full of unpredictability and rambunctiousness (think about the “terrible twos”), it can be challenging to recognize when a child’s ill-behavior crosses the line into more serious terrain such as impulsivity.

Signs of Impulsivity

Impulsivity becomes a problem when it puts a child in danger or causes disruptions at home or in school. Impulsive children have different ways of expressing themselves, but the most common signs to look out for are:

  • Interruption: He or she may interrupt parents, teachers, or friends, either by speaking over them or acting out.
  • Impatience: An impulsive child will show a degree of impatience. They may not understand the concepts of “waiting one’s turn” or sharing. In the classroom, they speak out of turn, blurt out answers, or grab toys from other students.
  • Inappropriate communication: A child may speak, yell, or laugh at inappropriate times.
  • Danger: A child may participate in dangerous activities without thinking about the consequences.
  • Emotional outbursts.

impulsivity and impulsive behavior

The Negative

At home, impulsive children may be labeled as “problems.” Without early intervention, parents may become overly frustrated and confused, adopt more drastic disciplinary measures, or even question their parenting skills. At school, impulsive children are the “trouble-makers” who disrupt lessons and distract other students. Both at home and at school, impulsive children will likely be disciplinary problems. They may develop a bad reputation among their teachers and peers and become vulnerable to social exclusion. Because impulsive children are often misunderstood and easily disregarded as being “problematic”, it is easy for them to become frustrated and isolated. Frequently they are unaware of how their behavior affects those around them, and so they may find that making friends is nearly impossible.

What Can You Do for Impulsivity?

Ultimately, impulsivity is acting and speaking without thinking. In many cases, it is the direct result of an underlying Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). One of the hallmarks of ADHD symptoms is impulsivity. Research estimates that it affects between 8-10% of school-aged children, and while occurrences are more likely in boys, girls also are affected. Language impairments can also cause impulsivity, as a child may be unable to express himself clearly with words and act out instead.

If you notice that your child displays many of the signs of impulsivity, it is important to have him or her evaluated by a health professional. Talk with your child’s teachers to see if they have any concerns. Take notes at home about impulsive behavior; Is there a trigger? A specific time when it is worse? A health professional will pinpoint if ADHD or any other learning or developmental disorder is at play.




  • Definition of Impulsivity:


This article is examined by Clinical Child Psychologist and Ph. D. Researcher Kevser Çakmak, and produced by Otsimo Editorial Team.

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This post does not provide medical advice. See Additional Information.