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Health & Parenting

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Biting - Topic Overview

Is it normal for a child to bite?

Most children younger than age 3 bite someone else at least once. Most children stop biting on their own. Biting that happens past age 3 or that occurs frequently at any age may need treatment. Biting isn't always intentional, and a bite from a child rarely causes serious injury to another person or poses any health risks.

Why do children bite?

Children bite other people for different reasons, depending on their age.

  • From 5 to 7 months of age, children may bite when they feel discomfort around their mouths, such as when they are teething. Most often they bite their caregivers. Sometimes a young baby bites his or her mother during breast-feeding.
  • From 8 to 14 months of age, children may bite when they are excited. Most often they bite a caregiver or another child close to them.
  • From 15 to 36 months of age, children may bite when they are frustrated or want power or control over another person. Usually they bite other children. Less often, they bite their caregivers.
  • After age 3, children may bite when they feel powerless or scared, such as when they are losing a fight or think that someone is going to hurt them. Biting at this age may be a sign that a child has problems with expressing feelings or self-control.

When is a child most likely to bite another child?

Biting occurs in a variety of situations, most often when many children are together, such as at day care. Most biting can be prevented when adults help children find better ways to express their feelings.

A child of any age who frequently bites other children may need special arrangements for day care. If biting becomes an ongoing problem, parents may be asked to take their child out of a day care center.

Can biting be a sign of a more serious problem?

Biting in young children usually doesn't lead to behavior problems at a later age. But children who bite others often and act aggressively in other ways, especially if they are older than age 3, may have health problems or emotional issues. These children should be seen by a doctor.

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