Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is a group of behavioral and emotional problems that usually begins during childhood or adolescence. Children and adolescents with the disorder have a difficult time following rules and behaving in a socially acceptable way. They may display aggressive, destructive, and deceitful behaviors that can violate the rights of others. Adults and other children may perceive them as “bad” or delinquent, rather than as having a mental illness. If your child has conduct disorder, they may appear tough and confident. In reality, however, children who have conduct disorder are often insecure and inaccurately believe that people are being aggressive or threatening toward them.

Types of Conduct Disorder

There are three types of conduct disorder. They’re categorized according to the age at which symptoms of the disorder first occur:

Childhood onset occurs when the signs of conduct disorder appear before age 10.

Adolescent onset occurs when the signs of conduct disorder appear during the teenage years.

Unspecified onset means the age at which conduct disorder first occurs is unknown.

Some children will be diagnosed with conduct disorder with limited prosocial emotions. Children with this specific type of conduct disorder are often described as callous and unemotional.


Children who have conduct disorder are often hard to control and unwilling to follow rules. They act impulsively without considering the consequences of their actions. They also don’t take other people’s feelings into consideration. Your child may have conduct disorder if they persistently display one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Aggressive conduct
  • Deceitful behavior
  • Destructive behavior
  • Violation of rules
  • Aggressive Conduct

Aggressive conduct may include:

  • Intimidating or bullying others
  • Physically harming people or animals on purpose
  • Committing rape
  • Using a weapon
  • Deceitful Behavior

Deceitful behavior may include:

  • Lying
  • Breaking and entering
  • Stealing
  • Forgery

Destructive Behaviour

  • Destructive conduct may include arson and other intentional destruction of property.
  • Violation of Rules
  • Violation of rules may include:
  • Skipping school
  • Running away from home
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Sexual behavior at a very young age

How Is Conduct Disorder Treated?

Children with conduct disorder who are living in abusive homes may be placed into other homes. If abuse isn’t present, your child’s therapist will use behavior therapy or talk therapy to help your child learn how to express or control their emotions appropriately. The occupational therapist will also teach you how to manage your child’s behavior.  Since it takes time to establish new attitudes and behavior patterns, children with conduct disorder usually require long-term treatment. However, early treatment may slow the progression of the disorder or reduce the severity of negative behaviors.

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