Conduct Disorder

A behavioural disorder in which a child persistently behaves in an antisocial or disruptive manner

  • More common in late childhood and adolescence
  • More common in boys
  • Sometimes runs in families
  • An emotionally unstable home environment is a risk factor

Most children are mischievous from time to time, and some may become rebellious, especially as they reach adolescence. Conduct disorder is suspected only if a child or adolescent persists in antisocial or disruptive behaviour.

Many children with conduct disorder have failed to acquire a sense of right and wrong. They may have grown up in an unstable home in which there is family discord or violence and lack of parental supervision. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are at increased risk of developing conduct disorder in later childhood.

Conduct disorder is more common in boys. The antisocial behaviour usually becomes more obvious towards adolescence, when an affected child may start to become aggressive and play truant from school. In some cases, a child will indulge in substance or alcohol abuse or become involved in criminal activities, such as theft, vandalism, assault, and arson. Children with conduct disorder often have low self-esteem and find it difficult to form relationships.

What might be done?

A diagnosis of conduct disorder is usually based on a psychiatric assessment of the child’s behavioural patterns.

The treatment for conduct disorder is always aimed at the whole family. Therapy will be directed at overcoming conflicts or tensions within the family. Parents will be encouraged to reinforce good behaviour, and an aggressive child will be taught how to control his or her anger and to be considerate to others. However, in many children who have conduct disorder, antisocial behaviour persists into adulthood.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

Back to top