What is Conduct Disorder? The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
defines “Conduct Disorder” as a group of behavioural and emotional
problems in youngsters. Those with this disorder find it really
difficult to follow rules and behave in a socially acceptable way.
Others often view children with conduct disorder as bad or
delinquent, rather than mentally ill.
Many factors contribute to a child developing conduct disorder.
Some of them include:-
* Brain damage
* Child abuse
* Genetic vulnerability
* School failure
* Traumatic life experiences
What are the symptoms?
Children or adolescents with conduct disorder may indulge in or
exhibit some of the following behaviours:
* Aggression to people and animals- Those suffering from conduct
disorder generally bullies, threatens or intimidates others, often
initiates physical fights with other children, use weapons that
could cause serious physical harm to others (e.g. a bat, brick,
broken bottle, knife or etc), are physically cruel to people or
animals and may force someone into sexual activity.
* Destruction of property- Such children deliberately engage in
setting fire with the intention to cause damage and deliberately
destroy other's property.
* Deceitfulness, lying, or stealing- Children with this condition
generally lies to obtain goods, or favours and also steal items
without confronting a victim (e.g. shoplifting, but without
breaking and entering)
* Serious violations of rules- Those suffering from this disorder
often stay out at night despite parental objections, run away from
home and often bunk the school.
How can it be diagnosed?
The primary diagnostic features of conduct disorder are
aggression, theft, vandalism, and violations of rules and/or
lying. For a diagnosis, these behaviours must occur for at least a
six-month period. The doctor takes into consideration biological,
psychosocial and familial factors before confirming a case of
conduct disorder. The differential diagnosis of the condition
includes oppositional defiant disorder,
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood disorder and
intermittent explosive disorder. Family physicians may provide
brief, behaviourally focused parent counseling, pharmacotherapy
and referral for more intensive family and individual
Which medical & behavioural conditions
accompany conduct disorder? Many children with a conduct disorder may have
coexisting conditions such as mood disorders, anxiety,
post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, attention deficit
hyperactivity Disorder, learning problems, or thought disorders,
all of which also requires treatment. Hence, a comprehensive
evaluation of the child and his/her associated behavioural
problems is required for treating conduct disorder.
How can conduct disorder be treated?
Treatment of children with conduct disorder can be complex and
challenging. The mode of treatment depends on the severity of the
behaviours. Some of the major challenges include child's
uncooperative attitude, fear and distrust of adults. In developing
a comprehensive treatment plan, a child and adolescent
psychiatrist may use information from the child, family, teachers,
and other medical specialties to understand the causes of the
disorder. Behaviour therapy and psychotherapy are usually vital to
help the child appropriately express and control anger. Special
education may be required for those with learning disabilities.
Parents often need expert assistance in carrying out special
management and educational programmes in the home and at the
school. Treatment may also include medication in some children and
adolescents, particularly for those with difficulty paying
attention, impulse problems, or those with depression.
Establishing new attitudes and behaviour patterns takes time. So,
treatment for conduct disorder is rarely brief. However, early
treatment offers a child a better chance for considerable
improvement and hope for a more successful future.
Center for Clinical and Translational Science
Children's School and Behavioral Problems
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