Conduct Disorder In Children

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Conduct disorder is a personality disorder seen in children oradolescents where there are repeated bouts of disruptivebehavior. These children or adolescents frequently break rules and ignore the basicrights of other people. They also cause physical harm to others or animals, steal,lie, and show other “bad” behaviors.

What is going on in the body?

More research needs to be done before experts fullyunderstand the mechanisms at work in this disorder.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The causes of conduct disorders are unknown. Theories include:

  • chemical imbalance in the brain
  • physical causes
  • genetic or inherited traits
  • chaotic home environments with little structure or predictability
  • the child’s temperament or the family’s response to it
  • The major risk of conduct disorder in childhood is that thechild may develop one of the following conditions as an adult:

  • antisocial personality disorder
  • mood or anxiety disorders
  • substance abuse disorder
  • Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

    Conduct disorder most often begins in late childhood, but it mayoccur in children as young as 5 or 6. If it begins in the early teen years,it is known as adolescent conduct disorder.

    Children with the disorder may exhibit any of these behaviors:

  • abusing drugsor alcohol dependence
  • physical cruelty to animals or people
  • cheating in games or at school
  • deliberately destroying property
  • forcing sexual activity on others
  • having frequent physical fights, bullying, threatening, or intimidating others
  • having difficulty interacting with others or behaving in social or school settings
  • lying
  • manipulating or taking advantage of others
  • running away
  • skipping school
  • stealing
  • violating rules set by parents or other authority figures
  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the condition diagnosed?

    Most children have some problems related to conduct at sometime. But a conduct disorder is diagnosed when those behaviors become:

  • persistent and impinge on the basic rights of others
  • major violations of accepted norms
  • significant enough to impair everyday life
  • At least three of these behaviors must have been presentduring the past year. Typically, a complete psychological and social historywill be obtained, either by a doctor or by a mental health provider. Also, acomplete medical and physical exam should be done. This is to find out ifany medical conditions are causing the child to act out.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the condition?

    A nurturing and stable home environment is the best prevention.Children from homes with a balance of love and discipline are less likelyto develop this disorder than are children from abusive, permissive, orneglectful homes. Prevention focuses on skill development not only forthe child but also for others involved with the child. This includes thefamily and the school.

    What are the long-term effects of the condition?

    If left untreated, conduct disorder can lead to:

  • school failure
  • school suspension
  • legal problems
  • injuries due to fighting
  • accidents
  • sexually transmitted disease
  • teenage pregnancy
  • drug addiction
  • suicide
  • homicide
  • What are the risks to others?

    Children with conduct disorder tend to have aggressive behavior.They can cause intentional or unintentional harm to others, to themselves,and to animals.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the condition?

    Treatment of conduct disorder may include group, individual,or family therapy or a combination. Psychotherapyis aimed at helping the child learn methods to deal with his or her emotionsand impulses in ways that work better in social settings.

    Counseling is essential to help the child with self-esteem,mood, anger control, and interpersonal problems. Providing support andsensitive acceptance of the child is important. This will include helpingthe child understand the various sources of the problems. Counselingwill also focus on developing appropriate behavior and coping skills.

    A predictable and nurturing home environment is important aswell. A balance in diet, rest, play, and study should be maintained. Soliddiscipline, coupled with nurturing, consistent, and fair expectations isimportant for children with a conduct disorder.

    Special education services with a plan customized for thechild may be developed at school. This plan will help arrange for additionalservices for the child. Parents need to work closely with the schooland educational services team.

    In come cases, medicine for mood disorders may be used.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    There are no side effects of the behavioral treatments.Side effects may occur if medicines are used.

    What happens after treatment for the condition?

    Mild forms of conduct disorder tend to improve as the child ages.Those who receive adequate social and work adjustments show progress.For others, the behaviors continue into adulthood and may develop intoantisocial personality disorder. A plan should be in place with the child,family, and therapist for what steps to take if signs of relapse appear.An agreement should be made to call the therapist when those symptomsoccur.

    How is the condition monitored?

    Conduct disorder is monitored by the family, the school,and the therapist. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported tothe healthcare provider.

    Article type: xmedgeneral