Conduct Disorder

A conduct disorder is a mental disorder that may occur during childhood or adolescence. Children and adolescents with conduct disorders experience ongoing emotional and behavioral problems that may include difficulty following rules, defiant or impulsive behavior, criminal activity or drug abuse. Boys are more prone to conduct disorders than girls and many individuals are also afflicted with other disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit disorder, or post traumatic stress disorder.

Causes of Conduct Disorder

The exact cause is unknown, but a conduct disorder may develop as a result of numerous factors that may include:

  • Child abuse
  • Genetic defects
  • Poverty
  • Traumatic life experiences
  • Parents with drug or alcohol problems
  • Brain damage

Symptoms of Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is often defined by impulsive, aggressive and antisocial behavior. Children or adolescents with a conduct disorder may exhibit some of the following behaviors:

  • Bullying
  • Fighting, often physical
  • Stealing
  • Breaking rules
  • Destroying or vandalizing property
  • Running away from home
  • Abusing alcohol and drugs
  • Truant from school
  • Lying
  • Cruel behavior towards people or animals

Individuals with a conduct disorder often have difficulty making friends and struggle with family relationships.

Diagnosis of Conduct Disorder

There is no specific test for a conduct disorder, however a diagnosis is often made after a doctor or psychologist interviews the child and parents, and if the child has a history of conduct disorder behaviors. A physical examination and blood tests may also be performed to rule out any other possible medical conditions.

Treatment of Conduct Disorder

Behavioral therapy and psychotherapy are common forms of treatment for conduct disorders. This type of therapy aims to help the patient express and control anger and difficult emotions. Therapy may also be beneficial to parents of children with conduct disorder, as they can learn additional ways to deal with their child during this difficult time. Treatment may also include medication, especially for those individuals who may also experience depression, impulsiveness or difficulty paying attention.

Additional Resources