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5 Things We've Learned about Aggression and Fragile X

Young boy kicking adult

Handling aggressive behavior can be an issue for parents of children with fragile X syndrome (FXS). Our Fragile X World researcher Dr. Anne Wheeler and our team wanted to learn more about aggression in children with FXS. We dove deeper into this topic through a survey of almost 800 caregivers (parents and guardians) of children of all ages with FXS. We wanted to learn about what kinds of aggression families face, what factors make a child more likely to be aggressive, and what this means for families. Today, we share five key things that we learned during our study.

1. Incidents of aggression were common in most children with FXS

We found that most children with FXS showed some form of aggression in the past year. Temper tantrums, defiance, arguing, and physical forms of aggression that included hitting, pushing, or kicking were common. If your family deals with aggression in a child with fragile X, you're not alone.

2. Aggression is usually mild, but can cause harm in some cases

Aggression can lead to emotional or physical harm to the child, family, friends, or peers. Although common, aggressive behavior usually was mild as reported by the caregivers in our study.

3. Aggression may be related to other issues common in children with FXS

We also found that aggression was related to how well the child got along with others. Children with high anxiety, hyperactivity, and sensory issues had more problems with aggression.

4. Aggression May Be a Way of Coping

Based on our study, we believe that children with FXS may act aggressively to try to deal with or escape something that is frustrating or unpleasant to them. Understanding the types of situations that increase the risk of aggression can help families and health providers decide how to prevent and treat this problem. For example, helping the child learn other ways to communicate may help to reduce the issue.

5. There Are Many Ways to Deal with Aggression

Caregivers in our study often dealt with aggression by redirecting the child's attention, ignoring the behavior, or using time out and loss of privileges. Some parents also used calming activities to help deal with aggressive behavior. If your child has temper tantrums or other types of aggression, talk with your health care provider about a plan for handling these issues. It may also be helpful to reach out to parent support groups in your area to learn about what other families do to manage aggressive behaviors. For additional resources for dealing with challenging behavior, see our Resources for Families.

For More Information

Stay tuned! Later this year, we will be posting a “family-friendly” research report with even more information and findings from this study. We'll update this post with the link when it's posted.

This post is based on a research article by Dr. Wheeler and colleagues published in 2016 in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.

Share Your Story

What strategies have worked for your family to manage aggressive behaviors? What advice would you give to other families? Please consider sharing your story with us. We hope to hear from you!

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If your family is affected by fragile X, please consider signing up for our research registry, where you can hear about upcoming studies and learn how you can take part.