Does my child display symptoms of Conduct Disorder?

This will be your new easy to read guide on all things you need to know about conduct disorder in children and teens. From the symptoms, correct actions to take if a child or teen displays any of these behaviors, and the outlook on this disorder if it is left untreated. 

conduct disorder

Conduct Disorder

What is Conduct Disorder?

It isn’t uncommon for children and teens to display disruptive behavior at some point in their lives. Conduct disorder only becomes serious when these behaviors are long lasting, and violates the rights of other people and animals. Conduct disorder has been defined as a mental disorder that’s characterized by serious emotional and behavioral problems in children and teens. It presents itself through long lasting and repetitive patterns of behavior that tend to disregard and violate the rights of other people and in some cases – animals. Even though it is not uncommon for both children and teens to display behavior problems throughout their development, it becomes problematic when these behaviors are prolonged and left untreated.

Types of Conduct Disorder

There are three types:

  1. Childhood beginning occurs when the signs of conduct disorder appear before age.
  2. Adolescent occurs when the signs of conduct disorder appear during the teenage years.
  3. Unspecified onset means the age at which conduct disorder first occurs is unknown.

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

What Are The Causes of Conduct Disorder?

It is said that the actual cause of this disorder is still unknown. However, it is believed that it caused by a combination of psychological, biological, genetic, environmental, and social factors.

  • Psychological: Some psychologists believe that the disorder sheds light on behavioral problems with moral awareness, and deficits in cognitive processes.
  • Biological: According to some studies, it is suggested that the disorder is linked to particular parts of the brain that are involved with emotion, impulse control, and regulating behavior. If the nerve cell circuits that are along these brain regions don’t work properly, you may also see symptoms of the disorder emerge. Studies have also suggested that defects or injuries to the brain lead to all sorts of other behavioral disorders. This disorder symptoms can happen simultaneously with other mental disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, substance abuse, and depression.
  • Genetic: It is possible that it can be partially inherited. Children and teens with conduct disorder may also have family members who have various mental illnesses, that include: substance abuse, mood disorders, anxiety, and personality disorders.
  • Environmental: Environmental factors play a huge role in conduct disorder planting itself in a child or teens life. Traumatic experiences, a family history of substance abuse, childhood abuse, dysfunctional family life, and inconsistent disciplinary action by parents may have an influence on its development and in the worse case, it may lead to psychopathic behavior as adults.
  • Social: Having low socioeconomic status, and being ostracized by peers also contribute to the development of this disorder

Conduct disorder affects 2%-16% of children and teens and is most commonly found in males than in females.

Conduct disorder

Conduct disorder: Teens who display symptoms are prone to substance abuse.

Symptoms of Conduct Disorder

Below you will read the symptoms and diagnostic criteria that need to be met in order to properly diagnose conduct disorder.

Aggression to People and Animals

  • Often bullies threaten or intimidate others.
  • Often initiates physical fights.
  • Has used a weapon that can cause serious physical harm to others.
  • Has been physically cruel to people.
  • Has been physically cruel to animals.
  • Has stolen while confronting a victim.
  • Has forced someone into sexual activity.

Destruction of Property

  • Has deliberately engaged in fire setting with the intention of causing serious damage.
  • Has deliberately destroyed others’ property (other than fire-setting).

Serious Violation of Rules

  • Often stays out at night despite parental prohibitions, beginning before the age of 13.
  • Has run away from home overnight at least twice while living in the parental or parental surrogate home, or once without returning for a lengthy period.
  • Is often truant from school, beginning before 13 years of age.

To add on to the symptoms, most children and teens who possess the disorder are also known to be extremely irritable, throw temper tantrums, experience drug abuse, and have low self-esteem. Children and teens are also unable to recognize that what they are doing hurts those around them, and are unable to show any signs of remorse or guilt.

Conduct Disorder/ Diagnosis

If your child is showing signs of conduct disorder, they should be evaluated by a mental health professional. The main questions will be about your child’s behavioural patterns. Your child must have a patter of at least three behaviors common to this disorder. He/She should have displayed them for at least the past six months and should impair him/her socially.

Conduct Disorder/Treatment

At some point, it may seem almost impossible to overcome and combat this disorder. It can be very difficult to handle, thus very difficult to treat if isn’t made into a collaborative effort involving parents, teachers, peers, and other various support networks. Like most mental disorders, or any type of medical illness, the earlier it is diagnosed, the more effective therapy will be.

Psychotherapy, along with other behavioral therapy treatments are the most common to help repress the disorder. For younger children with the disorder, it is normal that treatment will involve training the parents by a therapist. The parents will learn to encourage more desired behaviors from their children.

It is absolutely last resort to use medication on children and teens with conduct disorder. The only time a child will be prescribed medication is if the disorder is accompanied with other underlying mental illnesses that may require medicinal treatment.

conduct disorder

Conduct disorder has many risk factors including being male, poor parenting and coming from low socioeconomic status.

Conduct Disorder Outlook

Outlook serves as a prediction on what the future would look like for an individual if they have any sort of medical condition.

It is imperative that if your child is showing any symptoms of conduct disorder, that you take action immediately before it progresses. If the disorder is left untreated, children and teens can begin to display other disorders. If left untreated, in the persons adult life, they may begin to display other personality disorders, antisocial symptoms, endure substance abuse, and anxiety disorders.

You can fight the severity of conduct disorder if you are able to recognize the symptoms early on and seek treatment for your child. It can be treated, but it can be hard if the disruptive behaviors are allowed to escalate any further.

In this video you can hear Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Kimberly Williams, explain briefly what is conduct disorder and what you should look for in your child.

Do you know of any child or teen who displays symptoms of conduct disorder? Does your child display symptoms of conduct disorder?

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the above article, please leave a comment below. 🙂


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved from

Child Mind Institute. (n.d.). Conduct disorder: Treatment. Retrieved from

Kids Mental Health. (n.d.). Children conduct disorder oppositional defiant disorder ODD. Retrieved from

Valley Behavioral Health. (n.d.). Signs & symptoms of conduct disorder. Retrieved from

WebMD. (n.d.). Mental health and conduct disorder. Retrieved from

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