Nail-biting habit of children

Nail-biting habit of children
Date: 26.7.2023 13:00

Nail biting habit usually does not start before 3-4 years of age. (It can be seen very rarely as early as 5 months of age.) Nail biting behavior is observed in 33% of children.

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This rate lasts until early adolescence. The number of children who bite their nails during adolescence increases to 40-45%. In other words, almost half of the children towards adolescence show nail biting behavior. The reason for this is considered to be that young people do not receive approval from the environment. In addition, most of the families of nail-biting children are found to be nail-biters. For this reason, it is claimed that nail biting is an imitation and is learned by imitating adults. Most of those who see social approval in adolescence abandon this behavior.
Nail biting is sometimes associated with biting toes and catching toenails with fingers. Toenail eating and biting occurs almost exclusively in girls.
In cases where feelings of mental tension, distress or aggression are not expressed, it is considered a manifestation of the child's self-aggression urge. It is common in restless children. Nail biting is more common in irritable children and when teeth begin to erupt. Nail biting, which can be seen at the ages of 7-8 and more, is especially seen when children do not engage in any work or play in their hands. This state is often found in children with sleep disorders and restlessness. In this way, the child tries to suppress his inner restlessness. It is more common in children who are under the influence of an overly suppressive parent or a harsh teacher. It is considered to reflect a hidden aggression. It is said that it is mostly seen in self-blaming and introverted personality structures.


The underlying causes of this behavior are mostly psychological problems, as in thumb sucking.
Habits are mostly related to situations where suppressed emotions are concerned, and it seems to take root when the child realizes that this is an undesirable behavior and habit.
Nail biting is considered a sign of insecurity. The main reasons are the implementation of an over-pressured and authoritarian education in the family, the constant criticism of the child, jealousy, not getting enough attention and love, distress and tension.
The life of the parents is also an important factor. Communication problems between parents, parents being overly anxious and protecting the child excessively, and parents discriminating between children can cause emotional problems in children's relationships with each other and in children.
Nail biting is a behavior that starts with imitation. The nail-biting behavior of any individual in the family or in the immediate environment will naturally attract the attention of the child. In addition, nail biting behavior may develop depending on events. Any event that makes the child uneasy or any situation in the environment that will create displeasure for him causes him to show this behavior.
Exhibiting an extremely oppressive and authoritarian attitude towards the child in the family, constant scolding and criticism of the child, insufficient attention and love, troubles and tensions can be counted among the main factors that cause nail biting behavior.
Nail biting behavior, like thumb sucking, is caused by emotional problems and is aimed at reducing these tensions.


* Until the age of 3-4, this behavior should be ignored by the parents. If this behavior continues afterwards;
* The reasons for the child's tension and discontent should be thoroughly investigated.
* The use of coercive methods such as scolding, frightening, and punishing the child is very hurtful. It can even cause much more serious emotional problems.
* It is necessary to keep children away from situations that will create fear and anxiety.
* Children's attention can be diverted. Keeping them busy with something to chew while watching or listening to something can be a substitute for nail biting.
The child should not be forced to give up this behavior. Coercion can exacerbate the behavior.
Source: Assoc. Dr. Adnan Çoban


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