Causes, Symptoms and Treatments of Conduct Disorder

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Conduct disorder is a repeated and sustained pattern of behavior in children and adolescents where the rights of others or basic social rules are violated. It is a group of emotional and behavioral challenges that involve deviancy, drug abuse at home, school and in social situations.

A child with conduct disorder may appear tough, aggressive, and confident, however, in the real sense, that child is insecure and inaccurately believes that people are being aggressive to him. In summary, a conduct disorder goes beyond a negative behavior; it is a mental illness that must be adequately treated. Boys who have conduct disorder are more likely to display aggressive and destructive behavior than girls. Girls are more prone to deceitful and rule-violating behavior.
Classification of Conduct Disorder
The classification is in accordance to the age at which the symptoms of the disorder first occur: Childhood onset occurs before age 10. Adolescent onset occurs during the teenage years. Unspecified onset when the age of first occurrence is not known.


Symptoms of Conduct Disorder
The symptoms may manifest in aggressive, deceitful and destructive conducts which include intimidating or bullying others, harming people or animals physically, engaging in sexual assault, lying, stealing, absconding from home and school, breaking rules without clear reason.


Causes of Conduct Disorder
Conduct disorder can be caused by congenital and environmental factors.
Congenital (Genetic) factors include impairment due to injury to the frontal lobe of the brain which regulates important cognitive skills, such as problem-solving, memory, and emotional expression as well as one’s personality. Any damage to the frontal lobe of the brain may lead to lack of impulse control, inability to plan for future actions, inability to recant previous experience,
On the other hand, broken family, lack of parental guidance, child abuse, economic hardship, drug and alcohol abuse in the parents, family conflicts and peer group influence are some of the environmental factors that contribute to conduct disorder.

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Predisposing factors
Male child are more susceptible than female in developing conduct disorder Economic status: poverty is a leading cause of conduct disorder Residence: urban dweller tends to have it more compare to rural dweller Family history of conduct disorder and mental illness as well as having other psychiatric disorders Born of parents who abuse drugs or alcohol Having a dysfunctional home environment Having a history of experiencing traumatic events Being abused or neglected
Any child with signs of conduct disorder needs to be evaluated by a mental health professional. The behavioral patterns of the child will make the diagnosis to be easily known. For a conduct disorder diagnosis to be made; the child must have displayed at least three behaviors patterns that are common to conduct disorder at least once within the past six months and the behavioral problems must also severely affect the child socially or at school.


An impacting and successful treatment must commence early. The child’s family also has a great role to play. Parents may need to learn techniques on how to manage their child’s problem behavior. In cases of abuse, the child may need to be removed from the family and placed in a less chaotic home. Medication or talk therapy may be used for depression and attention-deficit disorder respectively. It must be emphasized that it takes time to establish new attitudes and behavior patterns; any child with conduct disorder needs a relatively long-term treatment in order to get back to normal. Importantly, early treatments are capable of slowing the progression of the disorder or reduce the severity of negative behaviors.

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