Conduct disorder or CD is a term seldom mentioned in terms of the behaviour of children and adolescents. This is strange as terms such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Pathological Demand Disorder (PDA) are becoming more widely discussed and used to describe specific patterns in children and adolescents.
Conduct Disorder is a condition characterised by hostile and sometimes physically violent behaviour and a disregard for others. Young children with CD may exhibit symptoms of pushing, hitting and biting. When older this can develop into hurting animals, fighting, theft, vandalism, and arson.
One of the characteristics of Conduct Disorder is a seemingly callous disregard for societal norms and the rights, feelings, and personal space of other people. The behaviour is often pre-meditated as they know what they are doing and will do it anyway.
This pre meditation element can mean that in certain situations individuals can and may plan anti-social behaviours in advance. This may result in difficulties in proving responsibility for their actions. In addition, their lack empathy may also lead to strenuous denial of their involvement.
Children with a parent (biological or adoptive) or a sibling with conduct disorder are more likely to develop the disorder while other risk factors include children whose biological parents have; ADHD, alcohol problems, depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
In addition, children who have experienced abuse, parental rejection or neglect, and harsh or inconsistent parenting may also exhibit the symptoms.
Although supporting positive outcomes in children with Conduct Disorder is difficult it is not impossible. In situations where an effective support network of parental figures, teachers, and peers can be created individuals with CD can be helped to make different behavioural choices.
In younger children, strategies for management of CD can resemble treatment for ODD including parent management training. In adolescents, options may target not just the home life but interactions with specific authority figures at school, and developing more positive peer relations.
As Conduct Disorder is often (but not always) diagnosed along with other conditions that can be treated pharmacologically, this option may feature in comprehensive treatment plans.
In summary we need to consider and to better understand Conduct Disorder in contrast to other behavioural terms in order to effectively approach and support specific individuals.