Conduct Disorder

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

According to a research, 6% of children in the United States may have conduct disorder. Conduct disorder is a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major society rules are violated. At least three of the following criteria must be present in the last 12 months, and at least one criterion must have been present in the last 6 months:

  • Aggression to people and animals such as bullying or threatening
  • Destruction of property or vandalism
  • Deceitfulness or theft such as breaking into someone's home or shoplifting
  • Serious violations of rules such as staying out all night or running away from home

The child or adolescent usually exhibits these behavior patterns in a variety of settings-at home, at school, and in social situations-and they cause significant impairment in his or her social, academic, and family functioning. Many youths with conduct disorder may have trouble feeling and expressing empathy, remorse, and reading social cues. These youth often misinterpret the actions of others as being hostile or aggressive and respond by escalating the situation into conflict. Conduct disorder may also be associated with other difficulties such as substance use, risk-taking behavior, school problems, and physical injury from accidents or fights.

If you have a child with Conduct Disorder in your home, most likely, you may not feel entirely safe. It is the toughest pediatric neuropsychiatric disorder to live with as a sibling, parent, or foster parent. Parents and family members are often stressed out and frustrated.

Research has shown that most children and adolescents with conduct disorder do not grow up to have behavioral problems or problems with the law; most of these youth do well as adults, both socially and occupationally.

Early treatment and identification of children with early-onset Conduct Disorder is vital. Intelligence is another significant factor; a child with a high IQ is easier to work with in treatment. Many children with this disorder have learning disabilities and lower than average verbal skills. Children suffering from Conduct Disorder should receive a comprehensive evaluation.

Treatment can be provided in a variety of different settings depending on the severity of the behaviors. However, it is difficult to make a child suffering from this disorder co-operate with you. Behavior therapy and psychotherapy is vital to the child appropriately express and control anger. Prevention and treatment for Conduct Disorder primarily focuses on skill development, not only for the child but for others involved with the child, including the family and the school environments.

A child's family system has an important role in the prevention and treatment of conduct disorder. Therefore the family may require assistance, ranging from education about basic parenting skills to management strategies for the disturbed child. The development of effective parenting skills has been considered as the primary mechanism for change in child conduct disorder, through the reduction of the severity, duration and manifestation of the disorder.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,