Children with problem behaviour

Children with problem behaviour are children whose behaviour significantly deviates from the generally accepted standards of behaviour

The term problem behaviour in children and young persons represents an umbrella term for various types of behaviour dependent on biological, psychological, social or educational factors, due to which the child or young person does not behave appropriately to their age, situation or social norms, which has a detrimental or dangerous effect on the child or young person or other individuals or social systems.
Problem behaviours include:
  • Risky behaviour—behaviour with which the person primarily puts their own health, physical and emotional integrity and property at risk, as well as that of other people. The consequences of such behaviour are minor in the short run, but may represent the beginning of dire outcomes in the long run. For example: skipping classes, staying out after the curfew, experimenting with cigarettes and drugs, periodic alcohol consumption, breaking rules at home and in school, some form of promiscuity.
  • Behavioural difficulties—behaviours with which the person breaks social and/or legal norms suddenly or has done this over a certain period of time. The consequences of such behaviour require professional help. For example: stealing, running away from home, loitering, leaving school, self-harm, social isolation, driving without a driving licence, isolated violent incidents, major breaches of discipline in school.
  • Behavioural disorders—behaviours with which the person has seriously and over a longer period put at risk its everyday functioning in several areas of life and/or puts at risk others or their property. Such behaviours require a response of specialists and institutions, usually from several areas at once. For example: major criminal offences and misdemeanours (breaking and entering, robbery, violence, drug dealing, rape), addiction, attempted suicide...

Where to seek help

If your child display problem behaviour, you can seek help from:
  • The responsible professional in the school—a teacher, expert associate (pedagogue–counsellor, psychologist, social pedagogue–counsellor, logotherapist), school principal
  • Experts from a social welfare centre. Addresses and phone numbers of social welfare centres can be found on the website of the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy.

Support for children and young persons with problem behaviour in the social welfare system

The competent social welfare centre has to investigate the family circumstance in which a child or young person with problem behaviour lives. Pursuant to the powers of social welfare centres under the Family Act (OG No 103/15, 98/19), social welfare centres can impose or propose the court to impose measures of family legal protection.

When working with children and young persons with problem behaviour, a social welfare centre can provide the service of assistance and counselling, refer the child to team evaluation/diagnostics in a social welfare institution, grant the right of day care, accommodation or organised housing in a social welfare institution.

As part of their services, social welfare institutions provide various types of care and support to children and young persons between the ages of seven and 21: care of their upbringing, education, health and other needs of each individual child, as well as counselling and support to the parents, evaluation/observation and implementation of court-ordered measures of educational nature.

Liability of children and underage persons for criminal offences and misdemeanours in the Republic of Croatia

  • A person is considered a child until the age of 14 and is not held criminally liable nor can proceedings be initiated against it. Instead, social welfare services take action within their competence
  • A underage person is a person between the ages of 14 and 18, and such person is held liable under criminal and misdemeanour regulations
  • A young adult is a person between the ages of 18 and 21, and such person is held liable under criminal and misdemeanour regulations. 
Pursuant to the Juvenile Courts Act (OG No 84/11, 143/12, 148/13, 56/15, 126/19), criminal offences committed by underage persons and young adults are sanctioned with measures of educational nature and imprisonment in a juvenile prison. Pursuant to the Misdemeanours Act (OG No 107/7, 39/13, 157/13, 110/15, 70/17, 118/18), measures of educational nature may be imposed against underage persons and young adults in misdemeanour proceedings.

When to seek help

Seek help if:
  • Your child is displaying some of the previously mentioned problem behaviours
  • You are having difficulties with raising your child (setting boundaries, being consistent)
  • Your child is experiencing difficulties with studying (attention and focus issues, reading and writing issues, difficulties with learning)
  • Your child has health issues which lead to displays of problem behaviour
  • Your child is bullied at school
  • Your child has some sort of addiction (alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc.)
  • You need support in the current difficult situation
  • You have information about vulnerable children or other vulnerable persons in your neighbourhood.