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January 10, 1996

Childhood Aggression Needs Definition, Therapy

JAMA. 1996;275(2):90. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530260006002

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THE LACK of a useful definition of childhood aggression leaves clinicians at sea and patients often pharmacologically awash.

If agreement could be reached on what constitutes true aggression in childhood, therapy could be rationalized. Currently, pathologically aggressive children 4 to 16 years of age are treated with a variety of pharmaceutical agents despite little evidence that any drug is effective.

These points were made by Daniel F. Connor, MD, speaking at a conference on understanding aggressive behavior in children at the New York (NY) Academy of Sciences. Connor is director of pediatric psychopharmacology at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester.

"The way aggression is currently defined is not helpful for the clinician who is trying to figure out how to treat it," Connor said. He cited the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association, saying, "If you list all