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Conduct disorder: What you need to know

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Published: Thursday, 21 December 2017
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Table of contents
  1. Symptoms
  2. Treatment
  3. Causes
  4. Diagnosis
  5. In adults
  6. Outlook
Conduct disorder is a mental health condition characterised by a behavioural pattern in which the child breaks age-appropriate social norms and rules.

The condition affects children and adolescents.

Along with oppositional noncompliant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder is considered a riotous behavior disorder and it is one of the most common mental health disorders diagnosed in young people.

Young people with this condition can be cruel and violent towards others, including pets and other animals. They may be annihilative, breakage and damaging property.

The behavior associated with conduct disorder is not limited to occasional outbursts. It is consistent and repetitive, occurring often enough that it interferes with the child's education, family life, and social life.

Fast fActs of the Apostles on conduct disorder:
  • Conduct disorder can develop before age 10, or during teen years, and is more common in boys than girls.
  • One out of four children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder disorder (attention deficit disorder) is at risk of developing conduct disorder.
  • Up to 45 percentage of adolescents with attention deficit disorder display conduct disorder behaviors.
  • A child or adolescent with the condition requires proper diagnosing and medical treatment.


Young people with conduct disorder can be cruel and aggressive towards others.

One of the key characteristics of conduct disorder is often aggressive, antisocial behavior that goes on the far side what is common for a child or adolescent of that age.

A person with conduct disorder may besides be driven by a need to dominate other people through Acts of the Apostles of aggression or intimidation.

An individual with conduct disorder may appear to disregard the accepted standards of behavior, as well as the sensitivity of others.

Emotional symptoms of conduct disorder include:

  • Lack of remorse: This may appear as an inability to feel guilty about doing thing wrong, a failure to feel bad about pain person, or indifference to penalty for breakage the rules.
  • Lack of empathy: They may disregard the sensitivity of others and appear cold, callous, or uncaring.
  • Disregards expectations: The individual may not care about acting well in school or other activities. They may seem to ignore others' expectations of them, even if they are given clear tasks.
  • Lack of feelingal expression: The individual may not display any feelings. They may appear shallow or superficial or may seem to be able to turn feelings "on and off" at will. When they do show feeling, they may use their feelingal response to manipulate others.

Behaviors or actions an individual with conduct disorder may display include:

  • breakage rules at home and school
  • bullying
  • vandalism
  • getting into fights
  • stealing
  • breakage & entering
  • lying or being deceitful
  • manipulating others
  • skipping school
  • running away from home
  • cruelty to animals

When young children develop conduct disorder, the first signs are often biting and hitting.

In older children and adolescents, symptoms may develop into lying, stealing, fighting (sometimes with weapons), property damage, and sexual coercion.

Individuals with conduct disorder may have difficulty reading social cues, which can lead to further aggression.

They may be more likely to assume that person else's behavior is more hostile than it is. When they respond to this perceived hostility, they may add tension to a situation and create conflict.

Conduct disorder often co-exists with other conditions, including:

  • attention deficit disorder
  • oppositional noncompliant disorder (ODD)
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • substance abuse


Family medical care has proven effective for conduct disorder.

A young person with conduct disorder may be perceived as a juvenile delinquent, rather than an individual with a mental health condition. Treating conduct disorder entirely as a discipline problem is seldom effective.

The key to effective treatment of conduct disorder is early intervention. Doctors and caregivers should besides be sure to address all the aspects of an individual's life that are affected by the problematic behavior, including home, school, social situations, and the community.

Family medical care, multi-systemic medical care, and psychological feature behavioural treatment (CBT) have been found to be an effective treatment for conduct disorder.

Multi-systemic medical care is a comprehensive approach, meaning that the child or adolescent receives treatment in multiple situations, including their home and school.

Parent training can help family members develop effective tools for dealing with conduct disorder by showing them how to establish clear limits, encourage positive actions, and discourage riotous behavior.

Research has documented the long-run effectiveness of parent training techniques.

As conduct disorder often develops at the same time as other conditions, so much as attention deficit disorder, treatment will be more effective if it addresses all the health issues a person is facing.


There is no direct cause of conduct disorder, but researchers think it is influenced by some genetic science and environmental factors.

Children have an accrued risk of developing conduct disorder if one of their parents or a sib has it. Research besides suggests that there may be a genetic link for an accrued risk of conduct disorder and attention deficit disorder.

A child may besides have an accrued risk of conduct disorder if one or more parent or caregiver has depression, schizophrenic disorder, a personality disorder, or an alcohol addiction.

Children who have suffered abuse, parental rejection, or neglect may besides be more likely to develop conduct disorder.

Living in a low-income or deprived area can besides increase a child's risk of developing conduct disorder. Some researchers theorize that this is due to the personal effects of economic, social, and feelingal instability.

The researchers state that deprived parents or caregivers may lack the skills needful to intervene in problematic behaviors or early signs of conduct disorder. They recommend establishing parent training programs as a preventative measure.

Research suggests that children or adolescents that experience attention deficit disorder, as well as conduct disorder, may have neurologic conditions that make it difficult for them to express themselves in words or exercise self-control.


A quarter of those diagnosed with attention deficit disorder are at risk of developing conduct disorder.

Only a mental health professional with expertness in children's mental health can make a diagnosing of conduct disorder.

The steps involved in diagnosing include:

  • taking a complete social and medical history of the child and the family
  • interviewing and observant the child
  • interviewing the family
  • doing standardized tests
  • examining the socio-economic context of the child's behavior

It is important to note that about all children will, at some point in their lives, behave in shipway that are riotous and even dangerous.

As children come to understand the personal effects of their behavior at school and in the family, they will all experience episodes of riotous behavior. These temporary episodes are normal during a person's development.

However, symptoms of a mental health condition, so much as conduct disorder, are persistent, consistent, frequent, and repetitive.

In adults

If conduct disorder persists into adulthood, it can become progressively problematic.

Adults who have conduct disorder may have difficulty holding down a job or maintaining relationships and may become prone to amerciable or dangerous behavior.

Symptoms of conduct disorder in an adult may be diagnosed as adult antisocial personality disorder.

What is sociopathy or antisocial personality disorder?
Antisocial personality disorder is a personality disorder that impedes a person's ability to care about the sensitivity and inevitably of others. Learn more.
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According to Mental Health America, galore young people with conduct disorder grow up to enjoy fulfilling social and work lives. The earlier treatment starts, the better the outlook will be.

Research suggests that when people develop conduct disorder as young children, instead of as teens, they are more likely to exhibit criminal behavior as adults. This is not alshipway the case but is thing for parents and caregivers to be aware of and discuss with a doctor.

According to Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), children diagnosed with some attention deficit disorder and conduct disorder are "twice as likely to have difficulty reading, and are at lesser risk for social and feelingal problems."

The long-run outlook improves when parents or caregivers take part in a behavior-based parent-training program.

According to one study, 63 percentage of children whose parents participated in so much a program showed a small improvement in their behavior, 54 percentage showed a large improvement, and 39 percentage showed a very large improvement.

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Conduct disorder: What you need to know
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