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The term “acting out” can have a variety of meanings as well as be executed at different levels of intensity. Acting out typically describes situations involving an individual’s failure to exercise proper control over their actions, which is why acting out also tends to be used as a pejorative term. It indicates that the individual has failed to censor their taboo primitive impulses and signals a lack of assimilation into basic social norms (e.g., a faulty upbringing). Because acting out is considered destructive, self-destructive, and socially undesirable, it usually is reserved for an observation of others’ behaviors. Acting out can be understood from the perspective of several disciplines, but it figures most prominently in therapeutic settings and those concerned with delinquent or other risky behavior (see Alexander and Sexton 2002; Overbeek et al. 2005). Almost invariably, acting out has been associated with the adolescent period, with acting out even seen as acting adolescent.
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