The tendency toward strictness becomes so strong in many children around 8, 9, and 10 that they develop nervous habits. You probably remember them from your own childhood. The commonest is stepping over cracks in the sidewalk. There’s no sense to it; you just have a superstitious feeling that you ought to.
Other examples are touching every third picket in a fence, making numbers come out even in some way, saying certain words before going through a door. If you think you have made a mistake, you must go back to where you were absolutely sure that you were right, then start over.
We now know that a very strong tendency of obsessive compulsive disorder in children is often the result of brain characteristics that are inherited. Rarely, a child suddenly develops severe compulsions as a complication of an infection with strep. From a psychological perspective, compulsions may be a way for children to deal with anxious feelings.
One source of anxiety may be hostile feelings toward parents that the child cannot acknowledge. Think about the childhood saying, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” Everyone has hostile feelings at times toward the people who are close to him, but his conscience would be shocked at the idea of really harming them and warns him to keep such thoughts out of his mind.
And if a person’s conscience becomes excessively stern, it keeps nagging about such bad thoughts even after he has succeeded in hiding them away in his subconscious mind. He still feels guilty, though he doesn’t know what for. It eases his conscience to be extra careful and proper about such a senseless thing as how to navigate a crack in the sidewalk.
The reason a child is apt to show compulsions around the age of nine is not that his thoughts are more wicked but that his conscience just naturally becomes stricter at this stage of development.
Mild obsessive compulsive disorder in children are so common around the ages of 8, 9, and 10 years that for the most part they can be considered normal. Mild compulsions, like stepping over cracks, shouldn’t be a concern, in a child who is happy, outgoing, and doing well in school.
On the other hand, I’d call on a mental health professional for help if a child has obsessive compulsive disorder that occupy a lot of his time: for instance, excessive hand-washing or if he is tense, worried, or unsociable. This is because such a habit can change into a disorder which is quite commonly found in young children. This disorder is termed as obsessive compulsive disorder in children