Conduct Disorder essentially means that the person violates the social norms and rights of others. It is generally a male disorder, occurring in 9% of boys and 2% of girls under the age of 18. Those with this disorder are habitually in trouble, be it with parents, teachers or peers. Despite presenting a tough image to those around them, they have a low self-esteem. Their frustration tolerance, irritability, temper outbursts and recklessness are hallmarks. Conduct Disorder may lead to adult antisocial personality disorder.
They manifest with chronic lying and cheating, and physical aggression and cruelty to other people and animals is common. They may destroy others property through vandalism, or more permanently through acts such as setting fires. Theft and stealing is also a common trait. Many of those with this disorder turn to drugs, alcohol and tobacco use; and usually begin having sexual relations with multiple partners at an early age.
Conduct Disorder usually appears before puberty in males, and after puberty in females. Many of these children have normal IQ’s, but have two or three years behind academically, and have lower verbal skills and abstract reasoning abilities. Hence, they appear to make mistakes often when verbally told how to do a task. Their manipulative, problem-solving abilities are often high however. The difference between outcomes in children may be the parent’s view of the child: is the child a screw-up, or a child with academic difficulties that needs extra help.
Risk factors for conduct disorder include a family history of antisocial personality disorder, sexual, physical or emotional abuse, a learning disorder, and an environment that makes trouble attractive.
There is no one treatment that works well with conduct disorder. Treating coexisting disorders such as learning disabilities and ADHD, drug abuse, removing them from bad environmental situations, enforcing appropriate punishments in appropriate ways, and teaching prosocial skills are the best approaches.