Understanding Conduct Disorders
In recent decades, the prevalence of conduct disorders has increased in children and adolescents and is more common in boys than in girls. In fact, Mental Health America reports that boys in the general population with conduct disorders range from 6% to 16% while the rate among girls ranges from 2% to 9%.
The diagnosis of conduct disorder is usually done by a psychiatrist or mental health professional. When left untreated, conduct disorders can follow a child into adulthood and can impact their personal and professional relationships as well as their overall sense of responsibility. Below is information regarding conduct disorders, symptoms, and treatments.
What are Conduct Disorders?
First, what is the difference between “conduct disorders” and “conduct disorder?” Simply put, “conduct disorders” is a category and “conduct disorder” is a specific diagnosis.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, conduct disorders refers to a group of behavioral and emotional problems in children and adolescents. Moreover, children and adolescents suffering from conduct disorders have great difficulty following rules and behaving in a socially acceptable way.
Conduct disorder (CD) and Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) are both classified as “conduct disorders” but are separate disorders with different symptoms, different criteria for diagnosis, and different treatment strategies.
With any conduct disorder, it’s important that parents recognize symptoms and begin evaluation and treatment early in order to prevent bigger issues down the road in a child’s development and interactions with others.
What are Conduct Disorders Symptoms?
Conduct disorders may include some of the following symptoms experienced weekly over a period of 6 months or more.
- Rule breaking or defiance
- Temper tantrums
- Lying or deceitfulness
- Physical aggression towards animals or people
- Initiates physical fights
- Bullies or threatens others
- Physically cruel to people/animals
- Disruptive or delinquent behaviors
- Destruction of property
- Deliberately engaging in fire setting
- Disobedient at school
- Runs away from home overnight
- Often staying out all night
Children displaying the above symptoms should receive a comprehensive evaluation. This evaluation includes: obtaining information from family, caregivers, teachers, and the patient; use of formal assessment instruments; and assessments to identify comorbid conditions.
What is the treatment for Conduct Disorders?
When treating conduct disorders, the first-line of treatment should be psychosocial interventions, such as family therapy, peer group therapy, and counseling. In fact, behavioral and cognitive-behavioral group-based parenting interventions may reduce conduct problems in children less than 12 years old.
Moreover, counseling can be effective for reducing high levels of impulsive aggression in some children with conduct disorders.
At Well Street, we believe it is important for your child to receive help from a behavioral health care professional as soon as you suspect your child is suffering from conduct disorders. In fact, based on our studies, we found that written or video-based material used to convey behavioral skills to parents may contribute to improvements in your child’s behavior.
Early identification and treatment can make a world of difference for your child and for your family—today and in the long-term.