Children and Adolescents with Conduct Disorder
What is conduct disorder?
Children with conduct disorder repeatedly violate the personal or property rights of others and the basic expectations of society. A diagnosis of conduct disorder is likely when symptoms continue for 6 months or longer. Conduct disorder is known as a "disruptive behavior disorder" because of its impact on children and their families, neighbors, and schools.
Another disruptive behavior disorder, called oppositional defiant disorder, may be a precursor of conduct disorder. A child is diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder when he or she shows signs of being hostile and defiant for at least 6 months. Oppositional defiant disorder may start as early as the preschool years, while conduct disorder generally appears when children are older. Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder are not co-occurring conditions.
What are the signs of conduct disorder?
Symptoms of conduct disorder include:
- Aggressive behavior that harms or threatens other people or animals;
- Destructive behavior that damages or destroys property;
- Lying or theft;
- Truancy or other serious violations of rules;
- Early tobacco, alcohol, and substance use and abuse; and
- Precocious sexual activity.
Children with conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder also may experience:
- Higher rates of depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and suicide;
- Academic difficulties;
- Poor relationships with peers or adults;
- Sexually transmitted diseases;
- Difficulty staying in adoptive, foster, or group homes; and
- Higher rates of injuries, school expulsions, and problems with the law.
How common is conduct disorder?
Conduct disorder affects 1 to 4 percent of 9- to 17-year-olds, depending on exactly how the disorder is defined (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999). The disorder appears to be more common in boys than in girls and more common in cities than in rural areas.
Who is at risk for conduct disorder?
Research shows that some cases of conduct disorder begin in early childhood, often by the preschool years. In fact, some infants who are especially "fussy" appear to be at risk for developing conduct disorder. Other factors that may make a child more likely to develop conduct disorder include:
- Early maternal rejection;
- Separation from parents, without an adequate alternative caregiver;
- Early institutionalization;
- Family neglect;
- Abuse or violence;
- Parental mental illness;
- Parental marital discord;
- Large family size;
- Crowding; and
Reprinted with the permission of the National Institute of Mental Health. © 2008 NIMH.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- Social Cognitive Theory
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- The Homework Debate
- First Grade Sight Words List