What is conduct disorder?
Conduct disorder is:
A behavior problem in which a child repeatedly breaks many laws and rules
Misbehavior that's bad enough or frequent enough to cause significant problems for the child or others
Children with conduct disorders:
Act selfishly, don’t appear to care about the feelings of others, and may bully, damage property, lie, or steal without guilt
Are more likely to be boys
Often have parents with mental health problems such as substance abuse, ADHD Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder that makes it hard to focus, pay attention, and sit still. It often causes problems at school and home. ADHD symptoms can... read more (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), schizophrenia Schizophrenia Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness in which a person loses contact with reality (psychosis). A person with schizophrenia may have hallucinations (see or hear things that aren’t real)... read more , or antisocial personality disorder Antisocial Personality Disorder Your personality is your unique way of thinking, understanding, reacting, and relating to people. A personality disorder isn't just an unusual personality. It's when your personality traits... read more
Often improve their behavior by the time they become adults
Doctors may have your child talk with a therapist, but the best treatment may be moving the child to a very structured setting such as a mental health facility
What are the symptoms of conduct disorder?
Conduct disorder usually begins in late childhood or early adolescence (teen years).
Children with conduct disorder don’t relate well to other people. They may:
Act selfishly and not care about other people’s feelings
Lie, cheat, and steal
Use illegal drugs
Bully or threaten others and get into fights
Be cruel to animals
Assume other people are threatening them and become aggressive
Run away from home and skip school
Damage property, especially by setting fires
Not have an appropriate sense of guilt
Sometimes children with conduct disorder talk about killing themselves. Always take suicidal behavior seriously and immediately take your child to the doctor or a hospital emergency department.
How do doctors tell if my child has conduct disorder?
To tell if your child has conduct disorder, doctors will ask about your child’s behavior. To be considered a conduct disorder, your child’s behavior must be troubling enough that it harms their relationships and performance at school or work for at least 12 months.
How do doctors treat conduct disorder?
Conduct disorder can be hard to treat because children don’t understand that their behaviors are wrong. Treatment may include:
Moving a child to a very structured setting such as a mental health or a juvenile justice facility
Therapy with a mental health professional to help children control their behavior
Medicine, especially if the child also has ADHD Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder that makes it hard to focus, pay attention, and sit still. It often causes problems at school and home. ADHD symptoms can... read more or depression Depression in Children and Adolescents Just like adults, most children have times when they're sad or feel down. It's normal to have a low mood when something sad happens, such as losing a friend or family member or having a disappointment... read more —treating the other problem may also help the conduct disorder