conduct disorder

Does Your Teen Suffer From Conduct Disorder?

April 19, 2018

Conduct disorder is diagnosed in children and adolescents who exhibit repeated and persistent behavior that violates basic societal rules or the rights of others. The behavior is typically exhibited in a number of settings, including at school, home, and in social situations. This disorder results in significant impairment in academic, family, and social functioning. If you’re concerned that your teen may have conduct disorder, it’s important to get him help as soon as possible, as early intervention leads to the best possible outcome.

What is Conduct Disorder?

Individuals with this disorder display repeated and persistent behaviors that violate societal norms or the rights of others. The disorder can occur as early as the preschool years, but the symptoms are usually most prominent between middle childhood and middle adolescence, according to Theravive. Oppositional defiant disorder often precedes a diagnosis of conduct disorder. Research has established that ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and oppositional defiant disorder often co-occur with conduct disorder.

In order for a diagnosis of this disorder be made, a child or teen must possess at least four of the symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM-5). Symptoms of conduct disorder include aggressive behavior toward animals or other people, being deliberately physically cruel to others, property destruction by arson or other means, truancy before the age of 13, engaging in non-confrontational economic order crimes, such as breaking and entering, using weapons to harm others, frequent physical altercations with others, perpetrating forcible sex acts on others, disregarding a parent’s curfew before the age of 13, and involvement in confrontational economic crimes, such as mugging. A child or teen with conduct disorder may also be deliberately cruel to animals, engage in non-confrontational retail theft, such as shoplifting, and has run away from home at least twice.

These behaviors significantly affect one’s ability to function. Additionally, a child or teen who has conduct disorder may lack remorse and be unable to express empathy. They may also misinterpret others’ actions as hostile and respond by causing conflict.

How Common is Conduct Disorder?

Conduct disorder is more prevalent in boys than girls. According to Mental Health America, research indicates that 6-16% of boys and 2-9% of girls in the general population have conduct disorder.

What are the Risk Factors of Conduct Disorder?

Several factors put children and teens at risk for this disorder. Specifically, experiencing trauma, having a parent who abuses alcohol or drugs, having a family history of conduct disorder or other mental illnesses, having other psychiatric disorders, and being abused or neglected put an individual at risk for the condition, according to Healthline. Additionally, Child Mind Institute asserts that harsh or inconsistent parenting, experiencing neighborhood violence, peer delinquency, and peer rejection also put someone at risk for developing the disorder.

Causes of Conduct Disorder

The exact cause of conduct disorder isn’t known; however, it’s believed that genetic, psychological, biological, social, and environmental factors all play a role in the development of the condition, according to WebMD.

How is Conduct Disorder Treated?

Treatment for conduct disorder typically consists of both medication and psychotherapy. Though there are no specific medications approved to treat the disorder, medication may be prescribed to address some of the condition’s symptoms as well as any co-occurring disorders, such as ADHD or mood disorders.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on reshaping one’s thinking, anger management, improving problem-solving skills, learning impulse control, and improving moral reasoning skills. Family therapy may be useful in treating this disorder as well. In family therapy, family members learn more effective ways to communicate and interact with one another. Additionally, parent management training teaches parents how to affect their child’s or teen’s behavior in a positive way

Conduct disorder is characterized by a persistent pattern of behavior that violates societal rules or the rights of others. An early diagnosis of the condition gives a child or teen the best chance to overcome it and may prevent future problems associated with the condition, such as substance abuse, incarceration, and other mental health issues, such as mood disorders. Enrolling your teen in the residential treatment program at Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center may be very beneficial for her recovery. If you believe your teen has conduct disorder, please contact Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center to learn more about their residential treatment program and how it can help your teen.


Theravive ––5-312.81-(f91.1)%2C-312.82-(f91.2)%2C-and-312.89-(f91.9)

Healthline –

Child Mind Institute –

WebMD –