Conduct Disorder


Conduct disorder is a childhood emotional and behavioral disorder characterized by disruptive behavior. Children with conduct disorder have difficulty following rules and behaving in a socially acceptable manner.


While no specific cause of conduct disorder has been identified, the following are thought to possibly contribute to the development of conduct disorder:
  • Brain damage
  • Genetics
Prefrontal Cortex
Prefrontal cortex brain
This area of the brain is associated with appropriate social behavior. A combination of genetics affecting this area and life experiences may cause conduct disorder.
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Risk Factors

Conduct disorder is more likely in male children younger than 18 years old (generally 7-8 years and older). The following factors are thought to increase the risk of conduct disorder:
  • A history of child abuse
  • Poor family functioning
  • Family members with substance abuse problems
  • Failure in school
  • Traumatic life experiences


Symptoms of conduct disorder may include:
  • Bullying behavior
  • Physical fights
  • Use of a weapon
  • Physical cruelty to people or animals
  • Stealing or lying
  • Forced sexual activity
  • Deliberate destruction of property
  • Serious violations of rules
  • Starting fires


You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your child may be referred to a mental health professional for evaluation. Diagnosis is based on behaviors that violate social norms or the basic rights of others.

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