Disorders of Childhood and Adolescence: Conduct Disorder

"Conduct disorder" refers to a group of behavioral and emotional problems in youngsters. Children and adolescents with this disorder have great difficulty following rules and behaving in a socially acceptable way. They are often viewed by other children, adults and social agencies as "bad" or delinquent, rather than mentally ill. Many factors may contribute to a child developing conduct disorder, including brain damage, child abuse, genetic vulnerability, school failure, and traumatic life experiences.

Children or adolescents with conduct disorder may exhibit some of the following behaviors:

Aggression to people and animals

  • bullies, threatens or intimidates others
  • often initiates physical fights
  • has used a weapon that could cause serious physical harm to others (e.g. a bat, brick, broken bottle, knife or gun)
  • is physically cruel to people or animals
  • steals from a victim while confronting them (e.g. assault)
  • forces someone into sexual activity

Destruction of Property

  • deliberately engaged in fire setting with the intention to cause damage
  • deliberately destroys other's property

Deceitfulness, lying, or stealing

  • has broken into someone else's building, house, or car
  • lies to obtain goods, or favors or to avoid obligations
  • steals items without confronting a victim (e.g. shoplifting, but without breaking and entering)

Serious violations of rules

  • often stays out at night despite parental objections
  • runs away from home
  • often truant from school

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