Conduct Disorder

What is Conduct Disorder?

Conduct disorder is defined by MHA as: “A repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in children and adolescents in which the rights of others or basic social rules are violated.” Evidence of this behavior gets noticed in several places such as the home, school or other social situations.

This disorder causes serious limitations in a child’s ability to function socially, academically and with their family. Typical onset or notification of these symptoms occurs during mid-childhood to mid-adolescence, and inception after 16 years old is uncommon. Most children grow out of this by the time they become an adult. If they do exhibit these characteristics, it becomes classified as Antisocial Personality Disorder.

With a small amount of prosocial emotions, an individual must have demonstrated at least two of the following characteristics consistently over a 12-month period, as well as in several relationships and settings. These behaviors reflect the individual’s normal pattern of behavior (interpersonal and emotional) functioning over this period of time. This time span effectively eliminates one-offs and occasional occurrences in particular situations.

Childhood-onset type

The child has to have demonstrated at least one of the symptoms prior to 10 years of age.

Adolescent-onset type

There were no symptoms shown prior to 10 years of age.

Unspecified onset

There is not enough information to ascertain if the onset of the initial symptom occurred prior to 10 years of age or after.

In the United States, the occurrence rates for conduct disorder are calculated to be 2-9%. This amounts to 5 out of every 100 teens. This information was gathered by nonclinical samples summarized by Costello in 1990. The samples, however, are complicated by particularly high rates of co-occurrence with other disorders.

Symptoms of Conduct Disorder

There is no real way to test for conduct disorder because there isn’t a genetic marker that would reveal its presence. The only way to diagnose conduct disorder is by noticing changes in behavior and actions. Boys are more commonly diagnosed than girls are.

It is difficult to determine how many children have the disorder because several of the qualities for its diagnosis are not easily definable. Attention-deficit disorder is commonly linked to conduct disorder. Conduct disorder is also an early indicator of bipolar disorder or depression.

There are four categories that symptoms are grouped in:

  1. Violent, antisocial behavior expressed towards people and animals, including fighting and bullying
  2. Destructive activities, such as committing arson and acts of vandalism
  3. Dishonest behavior, such as lying or stealing
  4. Disobedience of rules, such as playing truant and running away from home

While the above behaviors listed are serious, there are even more serious behaviors that may manifest, such as abuse of drugs and alcohol, sexual activity as well as feelings of low self-esteem.

Other symptoms include:

  • Breaking rules without clear reason
  • Lying to get favor or intentionally avoiding responsibilities
  • Callous disregard for others
  • Stealing items of no apparent worth
  • Absence of remorse for wrongs committed against others
  • Disregard/disrespect for normal law-abiding behavior
  • Demonstrations of defiance, hate or jealousy
  • Selfishness or lacking in generosity towards others
  • Reckless thrill-seeking
  • Refusing to accept blame/responsibility for wrongs done
  • Constantly suspicious of others, holding grudges, and feeling victimized
  • Easily distracted
  • Easily upset
  • Lower level of fear
  • Using weapons that can cause serious harm to others (knives, guns, bats, cars, etc.)

The affected areas of the brain for those who have conduct disorder:

  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Medial temporal cortex
  • Particularly the frontal and temporal regions of the brain

The brains of those who do not have conduct disorder scanned like normal after an MRI.

Conduct Disorder Causes

It is as yet not recognized what precisely causes the issue of conduct disorder, but rather there is a familiar way of thinking that it is a mix of hereditary, ecological, and psychosocial factors. Some of the most common explanations include the following:

Hereditary causes of conduct disorder

It has been proposed that numerous children who have conduct disorder have relatives with psychological wellness ailments, which would suggest that being susceptible to the development of conduct disorder may be an inherited trait. Such ailments include depression and anxiety, psychosis, panic disorder, PTSD, and anxiety following illness, bereavement, and stress, for example.

Physical causes of conduct disorder

Through numerous neuroimaging studies, scientists have observed functional and structural differences in the brain of those affected by conduct disorder. Conduct disorder has been shown to affect areas in the brain responsible for regulating impulse control and behavior. When the neural circuits in these areas of the brain do not function properly, conduct order symptoms may occur. Furthermore, studies have discovered that trauma to certain areas of the brain can lead to behavior disorders. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, substance abuse as well as having an anxiety disorder are other physical manifestations of this disorder.

Ecological causes of conduct disorder

The environment in which a person is raised, and also certain educational encounters, is known to add to the advancement of conduct disorder. Being neglected, abused or having to endure negative parental treatment is said to extraordinarily influence the onset of conduct disorder symptoms. Moreover, conflicted child rearing, being from an expansive family, having a guardian with a criminal history, introduction to trauma, and being rejected by companions can likewise add to a possible diagnosis of conduct disorder.

Contributing factors:

  • Being male
  • Family history of conduct disorder or other psychological wellness ailment
  • Issues with morality and ethical judgment
  • Deficiencies in thinking ability
  • Low financial status
  • Not being acknowledged by peers
  • Pre-existing mental illness
  • A history of criminal activity in the family
  • Living in an urban neighborhood
  • Being affected by neglect, abuse or other forms of trauma

Treatments for Conduct Disorder

Remedies for conduct disorder are meant to diminish or remove as many recognized issues as possible in the short-term while simultaneously working toward the long-term objective of stopping children’s behavioral issues from worsening as time passes (for example, into all-out adult Antisocial Personality Disorder).

Behavioral interventions, intended for the short-term, are supposed to address behavior issues that cause conceivably extraordinary negative results (for example, physical assault or breaking and entering). These behaviors are given a more intense level of treatment due to the gravity of the punishment or the consequences. Problems which are still notable – talking back to parents, not following instructions – don’t merit the same level of intensity because these behaviors do not necessarily lead to greater problems.

Various modalities are frequently valuable for giving viable treatment.

To be fruitful, treatment for conduct disorder can’t be restricted to once-a-week sessions in a specialist’s office (as can numerous adult-geared treatments). Rather, close coordination among specialists and parents is essential, similar to the steady utilization of treatment (by parents) amid everyday family circumstances.

Medications are largely ineffective, as changing the environment the child is in is the more prevalent issue. Parent-training on how to manage and ultimately eliminate the disorder has been the most proven form of effective treatment.

Identifying the strengths of both the child and the family is crucial. Not only does this assist engagement, but it augments the likelihood of a positive outcome as a result of the treatment. Nurturing their good qualities shows the child the benefits of behaving constructively instead of destructively – more time spent playing football is less time spent hanging round the streets looking for trouble. Encouraging prosocial activities – for example, to complete a good drawing or to play a musical instrument well – may lead to increased achievements, heightened self-esteem and greater hope for the future. Treatment involves more than the reduction of antisocial behavior – preventing tantrums and aggressive fits of anger, albeit beneficial, will not lead to good functioning if the child lacks the skills to make friends or to negotiate – positive behaviors need to be taught too.

Seeing a doctor or general practitioner is vital to curbing the effects of conduct disorder. Family physicians are often the first professionals who are consulted by families of children with conduct disorder. On the off chance that the specialist can’t locate a physical reason for the side effects, he or she will probably refer the child to an adolescent therapist or analyst. These professionals are specifically trained and qualified to identify and treat mental illnesses in children and teens.

Therapists and analysts utilize specially composed meeting and assessment devices to assess a child for the likelihood of having a mental disorder. The doctor will often rely on reports from the child’s parents, teachers, and other adults because children may withhold information or otherwise have trouble explaining their problems or understanding their symptoms. During these appointments, physicians should stress the serious nature of the patient’s behavior and the likelihood of an unfavorable long-term prognosis if there is not significant parental direction. The parents of children affected by conduct disorder often show signs of depression, antisocial personality traits, and/or substance abuse.

Conduct Disorder Prevention

In spite of the fact that it may not be conceivable to prevent conduct disorder, perceiving and following up on side effects when they show up can limit misery to the children and family, and forestall a large portion of the issues related to conduct disorder.

In addition, giving a sustaining, strong, and steady home condition with an adjustment of affection and training may help lessen side effects and avert episodes of disturbing conduct. Research is being conducted on what early interventions hold the greatest promise. The research includes many facets such as tutoring of children, the intervention of classrooms, training of peers, social-cognitive skills training, training the parents, and family problem-solving.

Other studies have focused on early parent and family intervention, school-based intervention activities and intervention in the community. There are numerous elements as suggested before, including parent training that includes education about normal child development, child problem-solving, and family communication skills training. Research is still needed to determine where and when to target specific preventive interventions.

Last Reviewed:
September 24, 2017
Last Updated:
December 08, 2017
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