Conduct Disorder

A child with Conduct Disorder has a very difficult time conducting themselves properly in a variety of settings. Others view children with conduct disorder to be simply “bad,” ill-mannered or threatening, and might simply blame the child for their behavior. The truth is that while many of the behaviors children with Conduct Disorder display are unacceptable, violent and forceful, it does not necessarily mean that it is the child’s fault. Parents of children with this disorder should seek help for them immediately.

Common Symptoms of Children with Conduct Disorder:

  • Bullying and intimidating others
  • Using weapons (sticks, knives, bats or even guns) to threaten or hurt others
  • Getting into physical altercations
  • Causing violence or harm to small animals, and even killing them
  • Forcing others into sexual activity
  • Stealing or destroying property
  • Consistent lying
  • Breaking regular rules, including “running away from home” and staying out much past curfew

Causes of Conduct Disorder

Many people don’t realize that children with conduct disorder are not simply evil or bad by nature. These children do commit horrible acts out of normal childhood tendencies, but it is important to realize that there are a variety of causes that are out of that child’s control. Sometimes genes play a role, where most often the child’s parents also displayed similar conduct disorder behaviors as children. Other times, children who go through traumatic experiences such as abuse and family conflicts are later affected by conduct disorder. Families with alcohol and drug addiction sometimes have children with conduct disorder. These children are in need of help, and they can only get better with the support and involvement of their family members.

Treatment of Conduct Disorder

Parent and familial involvement is critical to the treatment of conduct disorder. If the home is an abusive, chaotic or unhealthy environment, the child should be removed and put into better care. If not, parents can choose a variety of methods to help their child overcome conduct disorder. It is also vital to remember that getting help for the child is urgently important. The sooner treatment is implemented, the better chances of improving the condition. Parents can choose methods like family-based behavioral therapy, help from a psychologist, medication or a combination of the two. Seeing a doctor is important because sometimes children have an accompanying illness such as ADD or bipolar disorder in addition to their conduct disorder. If this is the case, it’s necessary to treat all of the problems.

What Should You Do?

Any loving parent or family member concerned about a child with Conduct Disorder should take proactive measures to help the child. Remember, the sooner the better. Of course, you want the child to grow up and have a normal, healthy life, so it’s your responsibility to seek help; they cannot do it themselves. You can call any local psychologist or psychiatrist, or even your regular doctor for details on how to get help. Keep in mind that for low-income families, there are still ways to get medical coverage for issues like this. You can even speak with your child’s school counselor to find out how you can help the child in need.

Links and Resources for Further Reading

  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s webpage for families of children with conduct disorder
  • Information including research and how to get help from Mental Health America
  • Diagnosis and treatment information from American Academy of Family Physicians
  • Information from Medline Plus about conduct disorder
  • New York University’s Child Study Center offers information, support and resources on their page about conduct disorder.

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