1. Parenting
Send to a Friend via Email

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:


was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

Externalizing Behaviors Definition

What Are Externalizing Behaviors?


Updated March 05, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition: Externalizing behaviors are actions that direct problematic energy outward. In other words, a person who shows externalizing behaviors does things that harm others as opposed to lashing out at the self (which are internalizing behaviors). Externalizing behaviors include physical aggression, verbal bullying, relational aggression, defiance, theft and vandalism.

Tweens show many externalized behaviors, especially when they are troubled. Boys are more likely than girls to show the more blatant externalized behaviors, like physical bullying, but on the whole, levels of aggression are similar between the sexes.

Related term: Internalizing behaviors


Phares, Vicky. Understanding Abnormal Child Psychology, Second Edition. 2008. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

  1. About.com
  2. Parenting
  3. Tweens
  4. Behavior & Discipline
  5. Externalizing - What Are Externalizing Behaviors?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.