Medical Q&As

Toddler - head banging?

Our baby is 19 months old. Over the last few months he has started head banging. He seems to start this when he gets upset. Lately he was in his cot and was crying before he went to sleep. He banged his head off the bedroom wall causing bruises across his head. We had hoped he would grow out of this but we are now very worried. Any advice would be appreciated

Head banging is a very common behaviour in the toddler age group. It is commoner in boys than in girls and occurs in approximately 20% of toddlers. The behaviour usually disappears by the age of three years. Even though your son has developed some bruising on his head it is very unlikely that he will suffer any brain injury because the force involved in head banging is not sufficient to cause an injury inside the skull. There are many reasons why children engage in head banging. In your child’s case it may be a way for the child to release tension prior to sleeping? Other possibilities include teething or middle ear infection. Sometimes head banging can occur as a result of frustration or anger and may be part of a temper tantrum. It can also be a form of attention seeking behaviour, which means that the behaviour can be reinforced in the child if parents continually react to the head banging. In other words, the greater the reaction to the behaviour the more it is likely to persist. The majority of children literally grow out of this behaviour however; distraction can be a useful way of aborting this habitual activity. Some evidence suggests that children who head bang are of higher intelligence than their non head banging peer group.