More Than Just Trouble: Understanding What Is Conduct Disorder

Does your child constantly get into trouble for stealing things, picking up on his friends, lying or misbehaving with teachers, and even sneaking out at odd hours? 

While you initially thought they were just being naughty and acting out, you can now see a solidified pattern. He is constantly being disrespectful, mean, and aggressive toward others. 

If this is something that describes your child, chances are they might be dealing with what medical science describes as conduct disorder. It is defined as repetitive aggressive, and rules-defiant behaviors from kids and teenagers. Though a treatable condition, conduct disorder needs timely professional help. 

On that note, in this post, we will dive deeper into the condition, its symptoms, causes, and available treatment options. Let’s get started.

Conduct Disorder

What Is Conduct Disorder?

Conduct disorder is a mental health condition characterized by constant and repetitive behaviors that are defiant to the general social norms and rules. It combines various behavioral and emotional problems associated with teenagers and children. Those dealing might showcase such behaviors with animals, people, and things.

Conduct disorder can be diagnosed in two stages. If it is diagnosed before the age of 10, it is deemed as early onset conduct disorder. It is deemed as adolescent onset if they emerge at a later age.


Some signs that your child may have or is at risk of developing conduct disorder include the following:

  • having frequent fights and disagreements with friends and classmates,
  • frequent absences from school,
  • academic struggles,
  • aggressive behavior toward animals or things,
  • engaging in sexual or physical violence,
  • having a complete disregard for rules and regulations,
  • indulging in the destruction of property,
  • theft, etc.

The symptoms of conduct disorder emerge as the child’s age progresses. At a given point, they can showcase a few or many of these symptoms. 

However, it is essential to note that the mere presence of such behavior does not indicate conduct disorder. It is only diagnosed as a disorder if the instances get repetitive, increase in severity, and progress toward violent tendencies. 

Read more: Types Of Impulsive Behavior Disorders


The following factors are responsible for the development of conduct disorder in children and adolescents: 

  • genetic factors,
  • influence from friends and classmates,
  • influence from family members,
  • adverse childhood experiences,
  • temperament, and
  • neurocognitive or brain-related problems.

Treatment Options

Professional help is extremely important to help a child with conduct disorder. Without timely intervention and support, the signs will not improve and might even get worse. Different treatment approaches are used depending on the type of case and onset. The regular treatment line includes the following:

1. Therapy

Different forms of therapy are suggested by mental healthcare providers depending on the diagnosis of conduct disorder. These include therapy-based interventions that are helpful for both parents and the child. 

Treatment is also subject to how the disorder manifests in each child. For instance, those with higher levels of aggression might be provided with anger management therapy, and so on. The common forms of therapy-based interventions include the following:

  • Contingency management programs: this form of therapy helps the child and their parents transform the child’s defiant behavior through positive reinforcement and reward mechanisms.
  • Cognitive behavioral training: this form of therapy is based on skill training that helps children develop and make positive decisions.

Read more: Best Online Therapy Platforms – 6 Easy-To-Use And Affordable Sites

2. Medication

While medication is not the sole treatment line for most mental disorders, it is beneficial in addition to therapy. Though no medications are approved for conduct disorder by Food and Drug Administration (FDA), healthcare providers use some to target specific symptoms like aggressive behavior.

Disclaimer: The above-suggested medications should only be used after proper diagnosis and discussion with professionals. Unregulated use can be life-threatening.


Conduct disorder is a mental health condition affecting young people. It is defined by rule-defiant and aggressive behavioral tendencies. The risk factors include genetic, environmental, and neurocognitive factors. Therapy and medications are often used collectively to help deal with the condition.

A similar type of condition to conduct disorder is diagnosed in adults – antisocial personality disorder. To learn more about it, click here.

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