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Childhood and Teenage Conduct Disorder

Childhood and Teenage Conduct Disorder

Childhood and Teenage Conduct Disorder

Diagnostic Features of Childhood & Teenage Conduct Disorders:

Sporadic, mild behavior issues in children and teenagers are a natural part of development. However, when problems persist and become more extreme in nature, there is reason to consider the presence of Conduct Disorder. Conduct Disorder is repeated patterns of behavior, where the child or adolescent displays great difficulty following rules and behaving in a socially acceptable way.

Childhood and teenage Conduct Disorders may display problematic behaviors that involve aggression toward people and animals; destruction of property; deceitfulness or thieving behaviors; and serious rule violations.


General population: Childhood and teenage Conduct Disorders are present in 6.8 percent of the child and adolescent population. It is more common in males than females (4 to 1 ratio), with reported rates ranging of 6-16% for males and 2-9% for females. It is believed that males are generally more physically active and aggressive but there has not been any definitive explanations given.

Minority Population: In relation to minority cultures, childhood and adolescent Conduct Disorders can be incorrectly diagnosed in people where disruptive behaviors are considered normal. This includes high crime areas and war zones. Children and teenagers living in low-income areas where crime rates are high are more likely to be diagnosed with Conduct Disorder.

This is because these behaviors, used as a mechanism for survival in living in these types of environments, are typically not viewed as appropriate behaviors by society at large. For people living in these areas, Conduct Disorder would not be an accurate diagnosis.

Dual Diagnosis:

Research has shown that children and adolescents with a diagnosis of Conduct Disorder typically have one or more additional diagnoses. These include a specific learning disorder and various types of anxiety disorders.

Studies have indicated that 20-30% of people with Conduct Disorder also have a diagnosis of a specific learning disorder. In relation to anxiety, it has been found that people with Conduct Disorder are twice as likely to also have an anxiety disorder. Individuals with Conduct Disorder may also have anti-personality disorder. This disorder would only be diagnosed in the future, as people cannot receive a diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder until the age of 18.

Risk Factors for Childhood & Teenage Conduct Disorders:

One of the number one factors that increase the risk for a diagnosis of Conduct Disorder is gender, as this disorder is more prevalent in males. There are also risks involving biological factors such as damage to a specific frontal brain region called the frontal lobe that is associated with managing emotions. Injuries to the front portion of the brain explains why people with Conduct Disorder lack impulse control and are unable to learn from past events where they have been punished for negative behavior.

Genetic influences also impact the likelihood of an individual having Conduct Disorder. This includes having close family members with Conduct Disorder, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, and personality disorders. Dysfunctional family life, childhood abuse, and traumatic experiences are also risk factors for developing Conduct Disorder.

Treatment for Conduct Disorders:

There are various forms of psychotherapy available for individuals with Conduct Disorder:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy aims to reshape children and teenagers with Conduct Disorder’s in order to improve their problem solving skills, anger management, moral reasoning skills, and impulse control.
  • Family therapy is used to help improve family interactions and communication among family members.
  • Parent Management Training (PMT) is a specialized therapy technique that teaches parents ways to positively alter their child’s behavior in the home.

Here at Fairmount, our clinicians use cognitive behavioral therapy (through group and individual therapy), behavioral therapy techniques, family therapy, and detailed assessments to identify and treat the symptoms of childhood and teenage Conduct Disorder.

Author: Shamyra Shaw, MSW, LSW

Doctoral Extern


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