Conduct Disorder: Signs and Diagnosis

Conduct Disorder: Signs and Diagnosis


Children and teenagers with conduct disorder (CD) suffer from a mental health illness marked by a persistent pattern of aggressive behaviours and acts that are detrimental to other people’s well-being. Rules and social conventions are also frequently broken by kids with conduct disorders. Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder are on the same spectrum of disruptive behavioural disorders. ODD can occasionally result in CD.

Conduct disorder frequently coexists with other mental health issues, such as:

Who is affected by the Conduct Disorder?

Children and teenagers are affected by conduct disorders. Although it can manifest before the age of ten, it usually does not take hold until adolescence (between the ages of ten and nineteen). Compared to children assigned female at birth (AFAB), children assigned male at birth (AMAB) have a higher prevalence of the disorder. For children, AMAB, the typical age of presentation is between 10 and 12 years old, whereas, for children AFAB, it is between 14 and 16 years old. The Prevalence of the Conduct Disorder is between 2% and 10% of children and adolescents in the US suffer from conduct disorders.

Signs and Origins

Conduct disorder-specific behaviours progressively emerge over time. Children who suffer from conduct disorder are often impulsive and challenging to control. They don’t appear to care about other people’s sentiments. The following are the four fundamental behaviours of conduct disorder:

  • hostility toward humans, animals, or the fundamental rights of others
  • destruction of real estate
  • lying, cheating, and/or stealing
  • grave transgressions of the regulations

Aggressive actions directed toward other people include:

  • intimidation
  • Physical aggression (perhaps using a weapon)
  • verbal altercations
  • threatening
  • forcing oneself to engage in sexual activity
  • animals suffering

Symptoms of property damage include:

  • purposefully starting flames
  • damaging or vandalizing the property of others
  • Among the tell-tale signs of dishonesty, lying, and theft are: Lying to obtain a favor or to escape accountability
  • stealing from certain persons or establishments
  • stealing from homes or establishments

Indications of rule-breaking include:

  • breaking the law without good cause
  • Absence from school (truancy)
  • escaping from one’s house
  • Often disobeying whatever guidelines their father has established

Additional typical indicators of a behaviour problem are:

  • excessive usage of substances and/or strong alcohol consumption.
  • having dangerous and frequent sex.
  • prone to becoming angry quickly.
  • not trying to disguise their hostile actions.
  • not expressing regret for what they did.
  • Having trouble forming and sustaining friendships.
What leads to behavioural disorders?

Although the precise origin of conduct disorder (CD) is unknown, researchers believe it results from a complex interaction of environmental, genetic, and biological variables.

Biological and genetic factors:

Numerous studies demonstrate that traits associated with CDs, such as aggressiveness, impulsivity, temperament, antisocial behaviour, and insensitivity to punishment, can be inherited. Aggression and high testosterone levels are linked. Aggression may be influenced by seizures, neurological impairment, or traumatic brain injury. Environment, family, and parent factors: Parents of teenagers with CD frequently have drug addictions and antisocial habits.

Additionally, mood disorders, schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorder, and ADHD are commonly identified in them. Children who grow up in homes with little supervision, little structure, and frequent arguments between parents may exhibit maladaptive behaviour that eventually results in CD.

Diagnoses and Examinations
How is a behaviour disorder identified?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association provides the criteria that mental health professionals use to diagnose conduct disorder. When children or teenagers exhibit three or more of the following behaviours in the past year, together with at least one in the preceding six months, they are diagnosed with conduct disorder:

  • hostility directed toward humans or animals.
  • destruction of real estate.
  • Lying, stealing, or deceiving.
  • grave transgressions of parental guidelines.
  • These actions must be severe enough to interfere with relationships, family life, education, and/or employment.
Handling and Medical Interventions

Training in parent management: Training the child’s parents to implement consistent punishment and appropriately reward positive conduct is the aim of this therapy.


The word “psychotherapy” refers to a range of therapeutic approaches intended to assist an individual in recognizing and modifying distressing feelings, ideas, and actions. Working with a mental health expert may help the person and their family by offering support, information, and direction. To effectively treat conduct disorder, psychotherapy for families with children often focuses on improving academic performance, family interactions, and behaviour in a variety of settings.

Training in anger management aims to lessen your child’s emotional outbursts as well as the physiological stimulation that rage produces. Anger management training teaches your child how to regulate their anger because you can’t completely avoid or get rid of the things or people that make them furious. Individual psychotherapy, like cognitive behavioural therapy: For a kid with conduct disorder, individual treatment focuses on helping them learn how to solve problems, build stronger connections by resolving disagreements, and refuse harmful influences in their environment.

Community-based Therapy:

This type of care includes residential treatment facilities and therapeutic schools that can offer a structured curriculum to lessen disruptive behaviours. While medication is not usually used to treat conduct disorder directly, it may be helpful for your kid to use medication to manage other mental health issues that frequently coexist with conduct disorder.

Summing Up

The behavioural issue known as conduct disorder (CD) in children and adolescents is characterized by aggressive and law-breaking behaviours. Aggression against animals and people is one type of behaviour. Other behaviours include breaching the law by purposefully starting fires, stealing, and vandalizing property. A major risk factor for the development of CD in children is their familial environment. Functional family therapy, psychotherapy, behaviour therapy, and parent management education are available as forms of treatment.

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