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Conduct Disorder (CD) in children

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Conduct Disorder (CD) is a serious behavioral and emotional disorder that can occur in children and adolescents. It is characterized by a persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated. Children with CD often exhibit a range of antisocial behaviors.

Symptoms of Conduct Disorder

The symptoms of CD can vary in severity and include:

  • Aggressive Behavior: Towards people and animals, including bullying, physical fights, use of weapons, cruelty to animals or people.
  • Destructive Behavior: Deliberate destruction of property, arson.
  • Deceitfulness or Theft: Lying, breaking and entering, shoplifting, or other forms of deceit.
  • Serious Violations of Rules: Staying out at night despite parental prohibitions, truancy from school, running away from home.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of CD is unknown, but a combination of genetic, environmental, psychological, and social factors is believed to contribute:

  • Family History: A higher incidence if there is family history of mental health disorders, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, or personality disorders.
  • Brain Development: Abnormalities in the frontal lobe of the brain, which is involved in impulse control and judgment.
  • Environmental Factors: Such as child abuse or neglect, harsh discipline, unstable family life, and association with a delinquent peer group.
  • Psychiatric Problems: Children with ADHD, learning problems, and certain mood disorders are at increased risk.


  • Comprehensive Evaluation: Involves a detailed clinical interview and assessment by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or pediatrician.
  • Criteria from DSM-5: Diagnosis is based on the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
  • Ruling Out Other Disorders: It’s important to differentiate CD from other disorders like Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ADHD.


  • Behavioral Therapy: Including individual therapy and group therapy to develop social skills, problem-solving skills, and anger management skills.
  • Family Therapy: To improve family communication and relationships.
  • Parental Training: To help parents manage their child’s behavior effectively.
  • Medication: While there is no specific medication for CD, medications may be used for coexisting conditions like ADHD or depression.

Management Strategies

  • Consistent Discipline: Clear rules and consistent consequences for breaking them.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Recognizing and rewarding acceptable behavior.
  • School-Based Programs: Support within the school setting for behavior and academic challenges.
  • Community-Based Programs: Including involvement with supportive community activities and mentoring programs.


  • The prognosis for children with CD varies and can be quite serious, especially if left untreated.
  • Children with CD are at a higher risk for problems in adulthood, including antisocial personality disorder and criminal behavior.

Importance of Early Intervention

Early detection and intervention are crucial in managing CD. It can help prevent the escalation of antisocial behavior and support the child’s development into a functional adult. Multi-faceted treatment approaches that involve the child, family, school, and community are often the most effective. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to seek professional help if they observe symptoms of CD in their child.

The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical advice of a physician