Conduct disorder has two subtypes: childhood onset and adolescent onset.
Childhood onset occurs when the signs of conduct disorder appear before age 10. Childhood conduct disorder, if left untreated, has a worse prognosis. Behaviors characteristic of childhood conduct disorder include aggression, destruction of property (deliberate smashing of things, arson) and poor relationships with peers. In about 40 percent of cases, childhood conduct disorder develops into adult antisocial personality disorder.
Adolescent onset occurs when the signs of conduct disorder appear during the teen years. Adolescent conduct disorder should be viewed in a social context. Adolescents who exhibit conduct disorder as part of gang culture or to meet basic survival needs (e.g., stealing food) are often less mentally disturbed than those with conduct disorder in early childhood. In addition, re-emerging conduct disorder behaviors, such as skipping school, shoplifting, or running away, in the context of family stress often go away if appropriate structure and support is provided.
Also, a third subtype can be distinguished: unspecified onset. Unspecified onset means that the age at which the conduct disorder first occurs is unknown.
Some children are diagnosed with a conduct disorder with limited prosocial emotions. Children with this specific behavior disorder are often described as callous and unemotional.
There are four basic types of behavior that characterize conduct disorder: physical aggression (such as cruelty toward animals, assault or rape); violating others’ rights (such as theft or vandalism); lying or manipulation; delinquent behaviors (such as truancy or running away from home).
Conduct disorder refers to a group of behavioral and emotional problems characterized by a disregard for others. Children with conduct disorder have a difficult time following rules and behaving in a socially acceptable way. Their behavior can be hostile and sometimes physically violent.
In their earlier years, they may show early signs of aggression, including pushing, hitting and biting others. Adolescents and teens with conduct disorder may move into more serious behaviors, including bullying, hurting animals, picking fights, theft, vandalism and arson.
Children with conduct disorder can be found across all races, cultures and socioeconomic groups. They often have other mental health issues as well that may contribute to the development of the conduct disorder. It is estimated that 2%-16% of children in the U.S. have conduct disorder. It is more common in boys than in girls and most often occurs in late childhood or the early teen years.
How is conduct disorder treated?
Children with conduct disorder living in abusive homes may be placed into other homes. If abuse isn’t present, your child’s mental health care professional will use behavior or talk therapy to help your child learn how to express or control their emotions appropriately.
The mental health care professional will also teach you how to manage your child’s behavior. If your child has another mental health disorder, such as depression or ADHD, the mental health care professional may prescribe medications to treat that condition as well. Telehealth allows you to get a prescription for ADHD medication online.
Because it takes time to establish new attitudes and behavior patterns, children with conduct disorder usually require long-term treatment. However, early treatment may slow the disorder’s progression or reduce the severity of negative behaviors.