Child Crime Prevention & Safety Center

Conduct Disorders

The term “conduct disorder” is a term that generally refers to a number of emotional issues that affects a child’s behavior in a negative way. Children who have a conduct disorder usually find themselves in trouble when in school for not following instructions of faculty and staff in addition to having a hard time fitting in with social norms. Unfortunately, these children are often labeled as problem kids, bad boys, bad girls, rebels, troublemakers, instead of what they are; children who are suffering from a disorder. Although there has been no clear indication as to how these disorders are caused or what causes them, some factors that can contribute to a juvenile having these types of disorders can include traumatic brain injuries, history of physical abuse, chemical imbalance, developmental issues, and inheritance through genetics.

Generally speaking, conduct disorders are more prevalent in males than in females. Studies have shown that among male children conduct disorders have been found in approximately sixteen percent of the population. In females, studies have shown that conduct disorders are only found in about 2 to 9 percent of the entire population. Despite the disparity between males and females, conduct disorders still remain the most common mental health diagnosis made by healthcare professionals.

Some of the common behavior problems that a child who suffers from a conduct disorder may display include: increased risk-taking activity, threats of physical violence, frequent involvement in physical altercations, infliction of physical pain to animals, vandalism or destruction of property, taking property/money from others, and getting in frequent trouble with authority figures. Juveniles who display these types of behavioral characteristics should be examined by a mental health professional to determine what disorder they may be suffering from and what type of treatment plan needs to be put in place.

Many of those who suffer from one type of disorder, either anxiety, mood, or conduct can also suffer from coexisting disorders. Many of the common disorders that a child can suffer from along with a conduct disorder can include substance abuse problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies have shown that if these disorders are not addressed early on that these children can continue to have ongoing problems as they mature into adulthood.

Many of the problems that are likely to follow children suffering from a conduct disorder into adulthood if left unaddressed include relationship problems, trouble holding a steady job, frequent run-ins with the law, and other socially disruptive behaviors. Due to the attention that school violence is receiving many of the common behavior patterns that children who suffer from conduct disorder display have been treated with a swift response by law enforcement and school administration.

Children suffering from conduct disorders that result in acting out in school can face certain consequences such as being expelled from school and having a juvenile court case filed against them. Once a child enters the juvenile system it is usually extremely difficult to receive adequate mental health treatment due to a lack of government resources. Additionally, once in the juvenile justice system children are often taught by others in custody how to engage in riskier behavior and how to conduct themselves in an even further disruptive way. Because of the serious repercussions that can follow a child who suffers from conduct disorder, it is critical that a mental health expert is assigned to properly evaluate and advise.