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Conduct Disorder

Definition

Conduct disorder (CD) is when a person has behaviors that violate the rights of others or major norms or rules of society. It is an emotional and behavioral disorder.

Causes

The cause is not known. It may be due to a mix of genetics and the environment.

Prefrontal Cortex
Prefrontal cortex brain

This area of the brain that is linked to social behavior.

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Risk Factors

This problem is more common in boys.

Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Having other family members with antisocial behavior
  • Having a mother who used alcohol, smoked, or had a poor diet while pregnant
  • Being around violence
  • Prior child abuse
  • Having parents who have:
    • Mental health problems
    • Substance misuse issues
    • Relationship problems
    • Had legal problems
    • Poor parenting skills

Symptoms

A child with this problem may:

  • Lack care or empathy
  • Bully
  • Fight
  • Use weapons
  • Be cruel to people or animals
  • Steal or lie
  • Force sex acts on others
  • Harm things that belong to others on purpose
  • Break rules
  • Start fires

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and health history. You will also be asked questions about your child's behaviors. A physical exam will be done. A mental health exam may also be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

The goal is to stop problem behaviors. Choices are:

  • Parent training
  • Individual or group therapy to help children learn to control emotions
  • Medicines may be used with other treatments to manage certain symptoms, such as mood swings

Prevention

Early care for emotional and behavioral problems may lower the risk of conduct disorder.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
https://www.aacap.org

Mental Health America
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
http://www.cacap-acpea.org

Canadian Mental Health Association
https://cmha.ca

REFERENCES:

Blair RJ, Leibenluft E, et al. Conduct disorder and callous-unemotional traits in youth. N Engl J Med. 2014 Dec 4;371(23):2207-2216.

Conduct disorder. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry website. Available at: https://www.aacap.org/aacap/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Conduct-Disorder-033.aspx. Accessed November 18, 2020.

Conduct disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/conduct-disorder. Accessed November 18, 2020.

Conduct disorder. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/mental-disorders-in-children-and-adolescents/conduct-disorder. Accessed November 18, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 11/18/2020