What Is Conduct Disorder? Does Your Child Have It?

What Is Conduct Disorder? Does Your Child Have It?

What is conduct disorder? Here's everything you need to know about conduct disorder in children, how it is diagnosed and treated.

At some point in their childhood, all kids will struggle with managing their behaviour. But as they grow, they learn to build friendships. Also, they understand better how their behaviours affect other people. If a child doesn’t seem to understand negative behaviour and is not concerned about the feelings of others, this could indicate a problem. Conduct disorder in children is a behavioral disorder that occurs when children engage in antisocial behaviours. These kids have trouble following rules, and struggle to show empathy to others. They may also threaten the safety of others or themselves. Conduct disorder typically emerges in children under the age of 16, but can be diagnosed in adults as well.

A 2008 study published by the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital attempted to unravel the prevalence of conduct disorder in urban secondary schools. Of the 885 students studied, 140 were diagnosed with conduct disorder, giving a prevalence of  15.82%. The ages of the entire students ranged from 9-18 years. The male: female ratio was at 4:1, with 112 diagnosed males and 28 diagnosed females. The study concluded that the prevalence of conduct disorder amongst school children is high.

What Is The Cause Of Conduct Disorder?

What Is Conduct Disorder? Does Your Child Have It?

Experts believe that the development of conduct disorder is somehow related to impairment in the frontal lobe of the brain, This can keep children and teens from learning from negative experiences and adjusting their behaviours.

Children diagnosed with conduct disorder may have a history of the following:

  • abuse
  • poverty
  • parental substance abuse
  • other mental health problems
  • family conflict or violence
  • brain damage
  • other trauma

Researchers also believe that genetics may play a role in the development of conduct disorder.

What Are The Signs/Symptoms Of This Illness?

What Is Conduct Disorder? Does Your Child Have It?

Children with conduct disorder typically exhibit behaviours of aggression, destruction of property, dishonesty, and a disregard for rules. Common signs of conduct disorder may include:

  • initiating physical fights
  • bullying or threatening others
  • using a weapon to cause harm
  • physical cruelty to humans or animals
  • stealing
  • breaking into someone else’s property
  • forcing someone into sexual activity
  • setting fire to cause damage
  • destruction of property
  • staying out late without permission
  • running away from home
  • missing school frequently

 Some children with conduct disorder also exhibit a lack of positive social engagement and emotional involvement. They may demonstrate the following:

  • no remorse for poor behaviour
  • zero concern about behavioural consequences
  • lack of empathy for others
  • no concern about performance at school or work
  • lack of emotional expression

How Is Conduct Disorder Diagnosed?

What Is Conduct Disorder? Does Your Child Have It?

Image: WikiHow

A mental health professional can diagnose children, adolescents, and adults with conduct disorder if they exhibit several of the signs above. The signs must have been present for at least a year before a diagnosis can be made.

When diagnosing children or teens, a psychiatrist may want to observe the child’s behavior and talk with his parents and teachers. Children and adults who receive a diagnosis of conduct disorder may also have co-occurring diagnoses. Some of them include attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); substance abuse; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); anxiety disorders; depression; or bipolar disorder. They may also have learning difficulties.

Conduct Disorder Treatment

What Is Conduct Disorder? Does Your Child Have It?

Image: WikiHow

Treatment varies depending on the child’s age and symptoms. Conduct disorder sometimes leads to depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental and behavioral challenges later in life. So early evaluation and treatment is key for children.

Treatment can prove difficult because children are often uncooperative and distrustful of adults. It is important for parents to remain patient. They must also be committed to working with them and building a team of support for them.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is sometimes used to help your child manage impulsive behaviors and deal with stress with positive coping strategies.

Family therapy will help your family members communicate effectively. It also helps parents learn strategies for de-escalating conflict with their child. Family therapy can also help reduce risk factors that lead to antisocial behaviors in the child.

Group therapy with the child or teen’s peers works to help them develop interpersonal skills and behaviours that foster empathy.

School support is another important part of treatment for conduct disorder. For children and teens in school, the school assembles a team of people to help your child with conduct disorder. This team typically involves school counselors, school psychologists, social workers, administrators, and others.

Researchers believe that positive parenting as well as providing a safe and supportive environment for a child can reduce the risk of conduct disorder. Reducing the risk factors that can increase the possibility of conduct disorder, such as poverty and abuse, is likely to ensure the best outcome for the child.

Resource: Psycom

Also read: Smartphones and tablets can affect mental health in children as young as two

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