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Conduct Disorder

What is conduct disorder?

Conduct disorder is a condition where the child or young person consistently breaks rules, violates social norms, disregards the rights of others.

How is conduct disorder diagnosed?

Diagnosis is made by a medical professional such as specialist paediatrician, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Diagnoses is based on internationally agreed criteria. The following are some of the indicative behaviours in the criteria. Diagnosis can be made if one or more of the following criteria have been present for at least 6 months:

Aggressive conduct

Destructive behaviour

Deceitful behaviour

Violation of rules

A child can be diagnosed as having mild, moderate or severe conduct disorder.

What behaviours are associated with conduct disorder?

Aggressive Conduct

Deliberate destruction of property

Deceitfulness or theft

Serious violations of rules

What is the relationship between ODD and CD?

Many of the trait overlap between ODD and conduct disorder. However, ODD is much less severe and also more common than CD. When ODD is left untreated and undiagnosed, it may lead to a more serious conduct disorder.

After the age of 18, a conduct disorder may develop into an anti-social personality disorder (Conduct Disorders).

What causes conduct disorder?

The risk of developing conduct disorder depends on a number of factors:

The child’s personality and temperament. They will have an insecure attachment leading to poor social bonding and relationships.

Inherited factors. Conduct disorder is more common where there is a family history of conduct disorder or other mental illness

Neurological differences. There may be some brain dysfunction particularly in the frontal lobe which may account for a lack of impulse control, poor planning skills and a decreased ability to learn from past negative experiences. These children also tend to have problems processing social information or social cues.

Environmental influences. Conduct disorder tends to occur in dysfunctional families where there are already relationship difficulties. Socio-economic disadvantage is also a risk factor.

How common is conduct disorder?

Conduct disorder affects about 6-7% of boys and 3% girls aged 10 or younger. It is more prevalent during teenage years with reported rates for 11 to 16 year old rising to about 8% in boys and 5% in girls. (Data source UK Office for National Statistics, 2004)