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Externalizing Behaviors: Examples & Definition

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  • 0:01 What Are Externalizing…
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Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Externalizing behaviors are negative behaviors that are directed toward the external environment. Learn about the effects of externalizing behaviors, how they influence adulthood, and more.

What Are Externalizing Behaviors?

Imagine that you are a fifth grade teacher. You notice that one of your students has been showing certain behavior problems. He refuses to complete classroom assignments, gets out of his seat, and disturbs his classmates. Although you have attempted to talk to him about his behavior, he continues to cause disruption and refuses to follow classroom rules. You finally decide to call his mother when he hits another student in the classroom.

The behavior problems of your student - disobeying rules, physical aggression, and threatening others - are examples of externalizing behaviors. These are problem behaviors that are directed toward the external environment. Instead of expressing their negative emotions or responses to life pressures in a healthy or productive way, people with externalizing behaviors direct their feelings outward to other people or things. For example, a child who's having trouble comprehending schoolwork may choose to bully a classmate who is doing well in school.

Here are some examples of externalized behaviors:

  • Fighting
  • Cursing
  • Stealing
  • Destruction of property
  • Arson
  • Running away from home
  • Underage drinking
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Refusal to follow rules, including written laws and curfews

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